Sunday, June 14, 2009

Banksy in Bristol


"Banksy may also have spraypainted himself into a corner with the art establishment. It's hard not to see the Cans Festival as a spoiler to Tate Modern's exhibition - especially as it was held at a location 10 minutes' walk away from the Tate. The event celebrated Street Art outside the stictures of the gallery system. But although in addition to Cans, Banksy has also created work featuring collectors bidding on a picture at auction called 'Morons' and decorated the steps of Tate Britain with a stencilled 'Mind the Crap' prior to the 2001 Turner Prize, his work is already in many major art collections - he's even donated work to a number of British galleries in a series of stunts similar to those carried out in New York's museums. A major gallery show seems inevitable. Sotheby's James Sevier says: 'If you look at the upcoming Tate Modern show, Banksy's notable by his omission. Maybe he was asked, maybe he wasn't [Tate Modern says he wasn't], but to participate in that show would go against what he believes in.' "
- How prescient of The Observer.

So, do we think Banksy has sold out? Love him or hate him, this is bound to be the artistic event of the summer.

An artist needs to eat. Recognition in one's lifetime and financial success go together; the paradox is great art from a historical perspective needs neither. The successful artist has to negotiate this paradox, and many have failed. Turner is an example of someone who came from virtually the gutter, achieved massive financial success, and then used his financial independence to create ever more challenging art; leaving all his contemporaries flailing in his wake. One hundred years later the late Turner canvases were rotting in the cellars of the National Gallery; it was only with the rise of Abstract Expressionism that they became fully recognized as works of genius. The radical techniques of Constable, Van Gogh and Cezanne were funded by family resources, not sales. Failures would include Millais (who sold out, literally, to Pear's Soap) and Dali.

The Bristol show is particularly hollow given Banksy's response to last year's Street Art show at the Tate. Fascinating that Nick Serota is so generous in his door-stopped comment on Banksy in the above promotional video on YouTube. The irony slays me.

Time as they say moves on, and it's time now to reassess my previous estimation of Banksy.

[Edit] - See also Cultural Snow's post Really spraying something

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