Banksy: Artist or Vandal?

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Banksy is probably the most famous European graffiti artist of the modern age. Many see his works as inspiring, meaningful, and insightful; but others see it as vandalism and destruction. He has also maintained complete anonymity: he has never been caught and no-one knows his true identity.

His website: www.banksy.co.uk
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy

So, the discussion I want to start here is, is he an artist, or is he a vandal?

My opinion is that he’s a great artist; his work is completely unique, and portrays deep political statements, as well as being original and interesting to look at. And in the nature of true art, he’s not in it for the fame or money. All his work is done in public places for everyone to enjoy.

 
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Why can he not be both?

 
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Looks like amazing artwork to me. Particularly liked the piece featured on wikipedia of the window to Israel from Palestine.

 
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graffitit is art, as long as it is not someone putting there tag everywhere

I classify what he is doing is art, which is unlike most graffiti i have ever seen.

 
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I’d say he’s an artist. He does his artwork for a reason. A vandal is some kid who’s bored and wants some quick fun by spraying a crappy slogan on a wall. Banksy is, like editundo said, a great artist.

 
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damijin, if you look at his website there’s a bunch of pictures from that wall…he did a whole series. I think his stuff is totally amazing.

 
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His stuff is great, and it is artwork. But it IS vandalism by law, so he is a vandal(Painting a nude man at a sex ed clinic? It may have a message, but it is vandalism).

 
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I have to agree – I don’t see any reason that he’s not both. If Michaelangelo had painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling on some random wall instead, he would have been a vandal too. The ends do not excuse the means, and painting where it is not wanted is still vandalism. I think the city ought to designate some areas for him to work, but as long as he’s doing it on his own accord on unwanted surfaces, he is vandalizing.

 
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this one is about a ten minute walk away from where I live

Also I’d say he’s both because he’s done shows in galleries as well as the grafitti and people pay for his work.

 
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Wow. These are absolutely gorgeous! I’d say it’s definitely art from an aesthetic perspective, but vandalism from a legal perspective.

 
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Agreed!

 
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I think Alison hit it spot on. I like his art a lot, but at the same time he’s putting that art on property than doesn’t belong to him. As beautiful as his work is, he is overstepping his rights and vandalizing possessions of others. Its as if he walked right in your house and spray painted your whole kitchen with a mural. It may be an awesome mural, but without your permission its would be both annoying and vandalistic. As beautiful as the art may be, no one has that right without due permission.

That being the case I do think its unfortunate that a compromise cant be reached, since a lot of it looks great and should absolutely stay. Due to the fact that most parties view his work as either vandalism or art, it contributes to the efforts made to wipe out all of it; when clearly it looks great in some places and does not belong in others (like the pic in unproductive’s post).

If he didnt commit blatant acts of vandalism, perhaps he would have a more peaceful relationship with authorities and be able to leave his work up. That would be awesome, seeing how nice some of it is. If we didnt try to harshly define it as one or the other – and realize he’s both an artist and a vandal – perhaps there would be less of a defining line and clash of opinions between the different parties.

 
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the world needs more of this.

 
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Its good, but I prefer sculptures of things outside rather than graffiti, you know… big scissors and whatnot.

 
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My opinion is he’s the most important British Artist since Derek Jarman. No artist in the new British wave (Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin et al) really spoke to the public at large, they became famous too fast and disappeared up their own backsides. Banksy is beyond innovative, really getting into the subculture because that’s everything he is – anti authoritarian, anti commercial anti everything that needs to be anti’d. He is the rebel and he can only be that because his work is illegal. Yet he has stepped beyond illegality. 5 years ago councils would remove his art from walls, today it is worth millions. For him crime does pay. But as he’s become more commercial he’s looked for other ways to enter the subculture. Hanging a crap painting in the National Gallery was a masterstroke. Banksy could never have arisen on the continent where grafitti is legal. He needed his art to be criminalised in order to have something to say about art and the grafitti culture.

I just wish he’d come up to Leeds and do some stuff in this most horrible of trendy cities.

 
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Some places you can actually graffiti, you know like when they set up old buildings to attract that kinda folk… He should go to on of them, if he doesn’t already.

 
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i think caractacus phrased it to almost perfection there.

i love the fact that he went through all that trouble to hang his paintings where he did.
i’ve been to his ‘legal’ exhibitions when they were in london and i can honestly say i’d rather stumble upon them sprawled on an overpass in bricklane when i’m getting a curry or crossing a bridge in bristol, for my monthly comic spree.

 
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The artwork of “vandalism” is beautiful!

It’s both a crime and art. But I love the graffiti people drew these days!

But we don’t want our world to be very artsy-fatsy. Maybe restrict it to some walls and buildings?

 
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A kid that sprays walls because of the overflow of hormones.Really guys his “art”(which is inapropriet) is just an act of what he thinks is patriotism.But he is really just some teen that thinks is superiror and one day will eventually be caught.

 
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He’s not a kid, he’s probably in his mid-30s. Most of his art isn’t patriotic, but actually very critical of the government. As for inappropriate, the grafitti in my picture has been there for at least 2 years, and a lot of his work is now protected by local councils and worth millions. Also he doesn’t just do grafitti.

Seriously man at least read other posts before you write.

 
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Maybe one of the Britons here could enlighten me: How does he get paid when he does commercial work?

It’d be cool if there was a cash drop, but I suppose it’s something less awesome… like wiring the money to a middle man or an alias? Surely he doesn’t require every person he does business with to maintain an oath of secrecy on his identity.

 
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Holy shibits, that is brilliant.

“No customers had complained or returned a doctored version, he said.” -HMV spokesperosn

That there is more than art, it’s a public service.

They often ‘donate’ walls around here, but I’m sure they are told to tone down their free-speech. Ashame. Then again, I’m amazed with basic graffiti: “Is that someone’s name in like, a bubble-font? How’d they do that?”

 
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Damjin. Banksy certainly never got paid when he was just another grafitti artist. He’d have had a day job which he would have used to support himself. In his middle years he managed to stay completely anonymous and because I don’t think he ever does art to comission then he probably worked from donations through his website from people who heard about him early on. Nowadays his stuff is worth millions and I imagine he’s probably just auctioned a couple anonymously. Although I doubt that he would have. The art he makes is for the people, to be seen by everyone as they pass by on the street whether they like or hate art. Whether they’ve ever visited a gallery or not Banksy reaches them. He has never (so far as I know) done commercial work. So for him to sell to a private collector is probably a betrayal of his beliefs. I mean I imagine he makes money somehow, and it would be easy for him to put a few pieces to auction but I doubt he would and I just don’t think anyone knows how except Banksy himself to be honest.

 
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he has an agent, it says it on his site i think, or somewhere else.

 
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Hello all. As you can probably tell from my username, I am Banksy. I simply signed up to respond. I found this site by looking at my mirror (searching in Google for Banksy, I like seeing how people react to hearing my name) and I say I do love it. I might stay a little longer. Maybe it's time to reveal some information. I want to make this as "detectivish" as possible, so some information like my name will be hidden in the following paragraph. Give it a shot: ---------------------------------------------- Once upon a time, he came. Wandering the streets, hoping to answer some of life's greatest questions. Everywhere, he leaves his mark, his tag, his identity. No one has found out barely anything, and most rumours are a lie. [this first paragraph contains my name, just look] Seven, the movie with Brad Pitt, is awesome, I loved it. PTC confrences suck, don't they? Ember means fire... I think. 7/11 is a great restaurant. 34 bottles of beer and your really not stopping. Years of magic as they say... how many "years of magic" has Disney World been operational? Old folks, smelly, eh? [this second paragraph has my birthday and my current age. I will be posting more riddles soon, but so far, this is all I have come up with.