2 October 2014


Tendring district council removed this ironic Banksy graffiti from Clacton-on-Sea because of complaints over the racist slogans. That raises several questions:

Does the high regard in which Banksy is held encourage the defacement of buildings by thousands of talentless graffitists, and should he be treated simply as a vandal?  Or is creative vandalism a special case?

Is he now held in high regard because of the high money value of his works and is he part of the artistic establishment?

Is it right to respond in this way to sincerely expressed feeling of offence?  Does art justify offence? Is the outcry over the removal of this graffiti partly inspired by its money value?

Comments welcome, and more thoughts later.

PS. Banksy has created an entirely new quandary because his graffiti is worth more than the buildings it defaces.  We have never seen that before.  Contrast the vandalism of the Rothko painting in Tate Modern, which the vandals claimed was art: their graffiti was worthless, but the Rothko was valued in millions. If the vandalism is worth more than what's vandalised, preserve it.  If, not, punish the vandals.

I like Banksy, but let's get him into proportion: he's a witty political cartoonist.

1 comment :

Buxton Fringe said...

Partial answers to some of your questions Marshall. Yes it is vandalism - what Banksy and other such artists do is done without the sanction or permission of anyone. This makes it different from other forms of public art. Yes, Banksy is clearly part of the art establishment and to that extent covering his work could be called vandalism too.
Yes, because his work is seen as being valuable in monetary terms he will be treated as a special case. Had this been my artwork/vandalism and it was covered over no one would be upset.
So what should we do about such work? If we treat it all as unwanted vandalism and graffiti do we simply obscure it? Should we make some assessment of the work and if we think of it as 'worthwhile' allow it to remain? [If the answer to this question was 'Yes' then heaven knows who would decide]. If this work was to be covered over it should have been because it was unwanted vandalism or poor quality public art - not because one person thought it racist.