Banksy: Street art's modern-day Robin Hood turns streets into a museum

Creeping through the shadows of the night, Banksy and his alleged collective have produced art for the masses to enjoy all over the world. Photo: Scott Moran

NEW YORK CITY, November 6, 2013 – A mysterious street artist continues to level the playing field in the art community by allowing everyone and anyone the opportunity to view his work without charge and without restriction. Curious onlookers from various socioeconomic backgrounds arrive in hordes to view the latest creation.

Many see Banksy’s work as a nuisance and nothing more than a series of simple graffiti pieces. Others offer a more romanticized interpretation of the British artist’s efforts.

Banksy is regarded by many as a modern-day Robin Hood, bringing art to those who more than likely have never stepped foot in an art museum. Similar to the legendary hero who roamed Sherwood Forrest, Banksy steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

Often, Banksy’s pieces are encased and removed by the business owners who are lucky enough to be the canvas for one of his works. These works are then sold at auction to those wealthy enough to keep up with the feverish bidding these auctions entail. Numerous pieces collected throughout Banksy’s lengthy career have been known to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some may simply write this off as dumb luck, but others paint a more elaborate picture. Understanding the planning and dedication it has taken for Banksy to grow in reputation from a quirky, locally known artist in England to an international art sensation, the whole phenomenon seems more likely to be morphing into an intentional redistribution of wealth. The Banksy bandwagon in many respects seems to be all about giving the middle finger to capitalism and much of the art community, both of which for years have scoffed at the notion of “street art.”

This past October Banksy took up residence in New York City for a month-long outdoor exhibit appropriately entitled “Better Out Than In.” Paintings, sculptures and other demonstrations have materialized throughout the city. From a 1/36 scale replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza, to numerous paintings that frequently offered social commentary on hard-hitting subjects, this October happening was eventful for the city of New York and art fans all over the world.

One of Banksy’s last October pieces brought with it one of the most interesting stories of his New York residence. A painting was purchased from a thrift shop managed by Housing Works, a nonprofit that supports the homeless and those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The picture was “defaced” by the elusive Banksy and returned to the store from which it was purchased.

The original painting was a picturesque, apparently autumnal mountain scene. The British street artist inserted a Nazi officer sitting on a bench admiring the view and re-titled it “The Banality of the Banality of Evil.” The piece was then placed on auction by Housing Works with a minimum starting bid of $74,000. It is estimated that this work could rake in nearly a million dollars for the charity in the upcoming auction.

An interesting question arises: Who has done more than Banksy for local businesses, charities, and tourism for the city this year? While outgoing Mayor Bloomberg has been turning his laser-like focus toward taxes on soda and raising the legal age for cigarette purchases from 18 to 21, Banksy has been out in the streets helping uplift the lives of everyday New Yorkers. 

Art is one of the few mediums that can bring people together, allowing them to forget their differences for the time being and enjoy the same works of art at an unhurried pace. So why should this experience be limited to those in the art community who attend exhibits and visit galleries regularly?

It shouldn’t. Banksy’s fugitive art stunts and streetscapes in and of themselves may constitute his signal, most lasting accomplishment. At the end of the day, all esoteric arguments aside, the mysterious British artist has successfully crossed the pond and begun an art revolution right here in the city that’s the American art establishment’s ground zero.

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Alex Uplinger

Alexander Uplinger is a 22-year-old features writer and current student at George Mason University studying English: nonfiction writing and  ournalism. 

I am an avid fan of most sports and genres of music. I have my own music website that has become fairly popular in the greater D.C. area.



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