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the night we lost our banksy

last night, melbourne lost its banksy

image pinched from theage.com.au. left: nu-bansky, right: OG banksy

some jealous fuckheads kids tipped chrome paint down the back of the protective perspex, tagging 'banksy woz ere' on top. and as much as i find it ever-so-mildly amusing, i still can't work out which i find sadder - ignorant bureaucrats from the tower of hamlets in london buffing over the helicopter because it's just graffiti to them, or calculated and jealous artists/wannabes making a spectacle of its demise. ignorance or spite? which is most loathsome in a person. which is more dangerous?

as ridiculous as it was that the diver was covered in perspex, i was rather proud of melbournians attempting to preserve its street-art history. no-one tried to rip it off the wall and sell it. it wasn't hawked as a money-maker, but was revered in its own way. perhaps more than it should - especially seeing as other well-regarded street artists get their work buffed all the time. but it says something about melbourne as a city, that a world-famous artwork sits proudly amongst the rats, on a building full of artist studios that has its drainpipes covered in gold-leaf as part of a public art program.

and i feel quite sad that is has gone now.

i hope that the pranksters look back and are proud of what they did. i hope they documented the process, have their own website about it, have put a vid of the event on you tube, have made limited edition reverse prints of the marker text and are working on following banksy around the globe, splashing over his other works as a political statement against the commercialisation of an essentially rebellious art form intended for the ghettos of america, and not the living rooms of the white nouveau-riche.

i want the spectacle of destruction to be a real spectacle. a show-stopper. a life saver, a fuck-off blast off and "holy fireworks batman!". i want them to have done this out of a wider, more noble reason than an insipid combination of puberty, jealousy and some desperate need for 15 megabits of deluded viral fame in which they are a david to banksy's goliath.

somehow, i don't think i'm going to get what i want.

EDIT: banksy, if you did this yourself, i'm still cross. but i'll forgive you eventually. and if you were in town, why didn't you call?

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At 13 December, 2008 21:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing post!
This is the first I've heard about this and it makes me really sad... I loved the fact we had a genuine one is our city. Lame as that is...

I'm secretly hoping Banksy reads about this and makes a return trip!!

At 13 December, 2008 23:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks age... so bummed huh.
unlikely that he'll come back, given how much of his work has been buffed, trashed and ripped off over the years. but i'm secretly hoping that he did it in the first place.

At 14 December, 2008 07:36, Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

The meta narrative for this post reads as follows:

"but is it art?"

At 14 December, 2008 07:48, Blogger lauren said...

frith - is the destruction art, or the original banksy?

At 14 December, 2008 08:05, Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

Answer mine and I'll get back to you Brown.

At 14 December, 2008 08:16, Blogger lauren said...

um.. "the meta narrative for the post reads: "but is it art?" cool, i guess.

i'm really hoping for a meta-narrative of "why?", not "what?".

At 15 December, 2008 03:14, Blogger Stanley Johnson said...

This made me sad when i read about it the other day.


Graffiti is cleaned off my back fence by the council regularly. Does anyone care? No.

Street art is by its very nature ephemeral.

When Keith Haring came to Melbourne (yes I am that old) he painted a commisioned work at the NGV. He did it on the window where the waterfall is.

His contract stipulated that after a specified period (3 months I think) the waterfall had to be turned on - washing the artwork away.

He did this because that's what happened to his work in NY.

So I guess we should accept that graffiti being removed is part of the natural life cycle of a piece of street art. No?

Still a sad story though.

At 15 December, 2008 10:10, Blogger lauren said...

stan - i've been having much discussion about this recently and have been challenging the idea that all street art is equal and that street art always has to be ephemeral.

banksy changed street art - as basquiat and harring did before him. banksy isn't just another street artist and his work is significant for that reason: street art became political and desirable and different since he came on the scene. and anyone that knows anything about anything knows that.

i agree that a large proportion of street art is ephemeral. in the same way that a large proportion of cubism was fucking lame. but does it always have to be?

and re: haring with his NGV mural - that was in the contract, agreed and a conceptual element to the work. this would be like someone coming along and painting the window yellow, over the haring, before the 3 months (or 'life' of the work) was up.

don't get me wrong, it's not that i don't understand the concept of street art and that i don't find it a little bit cheeky myself. but i'm questioning the reasoning behind the action and wondering why everyone is sad if we all really believe that street art should be transient and that banksy should be buffed?

At 15 December, 2008 22:21, Blogger Ben.H said...

I have to admit this put a little smile on my face. There are plenty of better examples of street art in Melbourne, and Banksy's work has been commodified as an object devoid of any value other than monetary. Whoever vandalised this work has liberated it and returned it to art.

Besides, it's a better job of defacement than the Chapman brothers did to those Goya etchings.

At 18 December, 2008 14:07, Blogger lauren said...

hey ben - sorry it took me so long to reply - i saw your comment whilst in a gastro-infested fever. noice.. and thanks for your comments - i really value the discussion. as pig-headed as i am about it.

and good point about chapmans and the goyas.. and i have to admit i had quite a heart palpatation about that too, even though i didn't like 'em much either.. and ai weiwei's destruction of ming dynasty vases... perhaps i'm too precious about art.

but as much as i admire the cheekiness of the act, i keep coming back to this: why can't street art be preserved? goya/ming dynasty - the shock is in the fact that they're SUPPOSED to be preserved. but because it's banksy it's not allowed to stay? it HAS to disappear? it has to be trashed and bagged and slagged because it's street art? and that trashing, bagging, tagging and slagging is art? as i mentioned in a previous rant about street art - what's wrong with banksy making money? art has been about commodification since the beginning. and i admit, some of the greed about his work is vile - but ultimately, that is not the art's fault. and i like to believe that the preservation of banksy works - and other street art of note - is actually in direct subversion of its commodification: it continues to be street art. the destruction actually just bought into the whole sordid dollar-based affair with a tantrum.


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