In A World Full Of Street Artists, Taggers And Vandals, Should Banksy Get A Free Pass?

Pic: Nola Defender

Pic: Nola Defender

Celebrated street artist Banksy’s famous painting of a girl standing under an umbrella was defaced with red spray paint over the holiday. (It is currently being restored.) The identity of the vandal or vandals is as yet unknown, and will probably remain so given the at best legally ambiguous nature of Banksy’s work. While Banksy’s paintings are appreciated by many, the defacement provokes this question: Should his work be considered sacrosanct?

By choosing public space as his canvas, he is operating in a living, competitive environment: a rich artistic biome full of taggers, street artists, sloganeers and run of the mill vandals. Defacing or modifying the work of competitors is par for the course in this Darwinian milieu. Should we, as Banksy’s audience, be any more outraged when his work is defaced than we would be when another street artist has his labor destroyed?

It can be argued that the public outcry is symptomatic of personal identification with a brand and acceptance of its commodification. There are other artists who are just as talented as Banksy, some of whom may be working in the same streets (and could even consider him an hyped-up interloper), but rarely does the destruction of their work provoke a national response.

Banksy’s carefully cultivated anonymity makes it difficult to hazard a guess to what his opinion might be, but I suspect that he must understand the transient nature of his medium and the “law of the jungle” that all street artists operate under. He certainly understands the commodified aspects of his work and how it affects people’s perception of aesthetic value – his flash sale in Central Park seems to be a nod at that.

To say that our anonymous vandal did his work to get us all talking about capitalism and the perceived value of art may be a stretch, but the fact that he tossed the can of cheap spray paint at the feet of the little girl depicted in the painting is certainly provocative – and provoking questions is what a good piece of art does.


  • Nick Sherekhora

    If anyone is offended, they are clearly missing the point…

  • sonicbphuct

    There are few thing more egregious than an external elite judging the internal workings. Street art is, by its very nature, temporary, egalitarian, and illegal. Applying an external moral code to that which refuses to be coded is, at best silly, at worst, worthy of being tarred and feathered. Fuck off Art Elite, or we’ll start painting in your stupid galleries. We’ll see how much you value street art then.

    • hellokitty2

      I agree with sonicbphuct. I started following Banksy’s art way before the rich discovered it. I can assure you that Banksy has experienced this kind of defacement at least 3 other times that I know of. I don’t know who Banksy is, but from what I can surmize, he’s not precious about his art. If he wanted to be commercial, he would have already gone down that path once the rich discovered him.

  • goatonastick

    No, I think the fact he puts them in public and people feel like destroying them speaks volumes about who we are. He didn’t have this bad of a problem in Europe.

  • echar

    For all we know it was Banksy that did this. I think the augmentation added something to this one.

    • lunasea

      Banksy would be my favorite artist ever if s/he is the culprit.

    • SE7EN_STAR

      my thoughts exactly. before i read the article i thought the picture was ‘supposed’ to look like that—and i thought it was incredibly powerful . afterwards, the first thing that occurred to me was the possibility that Banksy added the Red

  • Virtually Yours

    “To say that our anonymous vandal did his work to get us all talking about capitalism and the perceived value of art may be a stretch, but the fact that he tossed the can of cheap spray paint at the feet of the little girl depicted in the painting is certainly provocative…” I don’t think it is a stretch whatsoever, and would very much like to believe that it was Banksy who did this, for that very reason. That would be utterly refreshing, as something needs to spark a worldwide discussion/debate about our communal priorities, or lack thereof.

  • Htown

    The very nature of graffiti actively defines or more likely merely argues space as beyond ownership- yet within its own culture you find the very same property disputing games which they claim to actively be against. A movement based on hypocrisy because the second anyone else argues their claim of ownership for the spot their piece is on then you’ll see very quickly why these guys are armed with box cutters and bear mace. If a landowner has no claim, cosmically or philosophically, of ownership of space (which in itself flies in the face of everything observable in the field of evolutionary psychology) then why should anyone honor anything a graffiti artist does, regardless of aesthetic value?

  • DrDavidKelly

    The flash of red looks good. If you gona paint the public walls your art is open to modification and destruction.

  • DeSwiss


  • jose chung

    “fuck art. Let’s dance.” -LF