The Value of Banksy’s New York Residency

Banksy (Screen shot from http://youtu.be/zX54DIpacNE)

Banksy’s impromptu street stall (Screen shot from http://youtu.be/zX54DIpacNE)

It’s been fun having Banksy in New York, hasn’t it?

In case you haven’t heard, the artist has been in the city for a project he’s calling “Better Out Than In.” Each day in October, Banksy has created a new piece somewhere in the city. These daily pieces have appeared in the form of everything from Banksy’s famed stencil work to performance art to setting up an impromptu street stall to sell original work for the steeply discounted price of $60 (a single one of those canvasses is likely worth $30,000). Spoiler alert: only a few people bought any of the pieces. And those that did had no idea (and might still not know) how valuable the work they now own is.

So far, the “artists [sic] residency on the streets of New York” has created a mixed reaction, as Banksy’s work seemingly always does. Some of it has been quickly gone over by other artists, who, depending on what you choose to believe, are either jealous of his fame, looking to make a name for themselves, or simply not impressed with his work. In other instances, locals have tried both to chisel it from walls and to charge those who want to see it. It’s been painted over by owners of buildings who were unaware that a Banksy piece on their building actually increases the building’s value. And, of course, many are using this residency as a chance to finally unmask Banksy, whose identity still has never been confirmed.

In order to continue to protect that anonymity (remember, what he is doing is a crime according to the law) the artist rarely gives interviews. However, Banksy did answer some questions through email for the Village Voice about “Better Out Than In.”

In talking about how the project was conceived he wrote, “There is absolutely no reason for doing this show at all. I know street art can feel increasingly like the marketing wing of an art career, so I wanted to make some art without the price tag attached. There’s no gallery show or book or film. It’s pointless. Which hopefully means something.”

And, for me at least, Banksy’s work does mean something. First and foremost, his work has value because it is an entirely democratic form of art, or at least the closest you’ll get to that. Everyone can see it no matter where you are in the socioeconomic spectrum. Banksy removes art from the context of the often stuffy museum and puts it in places where people who might not be able to afford a ticket to an art museum can interact it with it. And he not only gives those people the opportunity to interact with art, but he essentially forces everyone to interact with it by placing it in public areas.

So whether you like his work or not after seeing it, you at the very least have to think about it. How you then choose to think about it is up to you. Perhaps it makes you consider why you don’t particularly value art in your life. Maybe his work makes you reconsider how you evaluate art. Or maybe you think about all the social, political, and economic issues that his work brings up.

Whichever way you choose to think about it is, as Banksy says, “pointless;” it does not matter. What matters is that you are thinking on a critical level of some sort. Without seeing Banksy’s work that day, you might not have broken out of the superficial day-to-day thinking that we all do. Instead of thinking about your workday or errands you have to run later or anything else, you’re forced to break out of that default setting we all operate on, if only for a few minutes. So although I see value in Banksy’s work apart from this, this aspect of his art is what I find to be the most valuable.

And, because of this, I hope that Banksy extends his residency in the States for another month or two. We could all use a little more Banksy in our lives.

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CharlieCharlie Crespo (@Little_Utopia) is the editor-in-chief of Little Utopia.

Previously from Charlie Crespo:
Viral Video of the Week: The Inner Workings of My Mind
On Being a Die-Hard Fan of a Pathetic Sports Franchise
Viral Video of the Week: BatDad Begins
Thank You For Not Governing!
Viral Video of the Week: Fly Like an Eagle

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