Some critics dislike the casual blend of whimsy and gravitas. Andrew Castrucci, co-founder of the Bullet Space urban arts collective, says other longtime New York street artists such as John Fekner, whose early work dealt with urban decay in the Bronx, are more deserving of praise.

"It's too literal, it's too easy—there's no mystery behind his work," Castrucci says of Banksy. "He's like the new hot stock. It's like the market: [The media] has created a bubble. I don't think his work is strong enough fetch that type of press. It's hype to me."

Weber agrees, expressing admiration and respect for Banksy while saying the artist is at risk of "becoming appropriated by the very pop culture he critiques."

"I'm kind of issuing a challenge to Banksy," Weber says. "When do you step into the real world? When does a piece of art change policy or catalyze social awareness or social action at this point? Again, I'd like to see him work on a topic that will raise some ruckus. The only reason I want more is because I know Banksy can deliver. He's a great artist."

TrustoCorp, an anonymous street artist (or perhaps a group) who creates satirical street signs, posted two pieces recently that skewer Banksy. One looks like a Citibank sign and reads, "Bad artists imitate, great artists get really rich." The other tweaks the Bank of America logo to read "Banksy of America," and imparts, "Laugh now but someday I'll be so rich I can do graffiti wherever I want."

Mayor Bloomberg isn't a fan. He said at an October 16 press conference that Banksy's stencils are "not my definition of art" and "should not be permitted." Quoting an anonymous source, the New York Post reported that the New York Police Department's Citywide Vandals Task Force is hunting the elusive artist, to which Banksy responded on his website, "I don't read what i [sic] believe in the papers." (The Daily News, predictably, refuted the story.)

Others bristle at classifying Banksy's work as graffiti. New York graffiti historian Sacha Jenkins says Banksy "has found a way to leverage the quote-unquote 'danger' associated with graffiti" for his own purposes.

"He's using social media and the media in general to promote his agenda, and he's using graffiti to make it more salacious," Jenkins says. "He has the posture of this supervillain who engulfs a city and no one knows where he'll strike next."

Banksy admirers dismiss the art semantics and emphasize the fact that his work is engaging audiences and sparking a dialogue about art and the nature of public spaces.

"We don't even really know what defines a 'graffiti artist' anymore, let alone a 'street artist,'" write McNeil and Miller. "Is it someone who spray-paints their name on a wall? Or is it someone that provokes people through the content they create in the public sphere?"

As for Banksy's legacy, several artists speculate that the magnitude of and public interest in "Better Out Than In" will force a generation of street artists to adapt and react, a phenomenon Witz calls "the Picasso syndrome."

"People try to take him down, but it's really hard to do after this," Witz says. "I respect him. I'm in a weird place, because I've been doing this for so long and I should resent him for being rich and famous. But I'm enjoying the hell out of it."

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3 comments
andrea581
andrea581

BANKSY Please help WBAI Radio!


Gregory A. Butler
Gregory A. Butler

"He has the posture of this superdouchebag who annoys a city and no one knows where he'll suck next" - fixed that for you

leeroyburrel
leeroyburrel

@Gregory A. Butler "Annoys a city". Speak for yourself. The 1000's of people who travel every day to see all of his work aren't annoyed.

 
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