By Deb A.
With a day's take of $420 in his pouch, a white-haired man packs up his stall in Central Park and heads home. He has sold only a handful of canvases — including four to a man who just needs "something for the walls" of his new house. No-one seems to have noticed that he is selling original signed works by Banksy that could be considered a bargain at a thousand times the $60 asking price.
British street artist Banksy has been turning New York City into his own open-air gallery for the month of October in a project he calls "Better Out Than In". So far he has captivated New Yorkers with works including a 9/11 tribute, a slaughterhouse delivery truck filled with stuffed animals, and 'Broadway makeovers' that have ended up prompting even individuals who would not normally engage with the art scene to ponder the meaning and nature of art.
Several of Banksy's pieces were defaced within hours, inviting the world to debate whether this was heartbreaking sacrilege or just the kind of playful irreverence that Banksy himself would approve of... or whether it was all just a blatant violation of New York City's anti-graffiti legislation that should be destroyed immediately. (Mayor Bloomberg's stance is clear: he has pledged to paint over any pieces on city property.) Ideas around art, ownership, intrinsic value and public duty were brought to the public consciousness: one proprietor of a building blessed/cursed by Banksy's aerosol cans was left wondering how—and whether—to preserve the two geishas that appeared overnight, while entrepreneurial Brooklynites covered an image of a beaver up with cardboard and demanded $20 from anyone who wanted to take a photograph, claiming, "it's worth more to you that this is here than to me."
Whether they make stark political statements or simply add a glimmer of whimsy to the streets of New York, Banksy's creations all operate under the motto that inspired the title of the project: Paul Cézanne's statement that "all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside." Art must thrive within its context, whatever form that may take, in order to engage an entire city in big ideas.
I have a theory that you can make any sentence seem profound by writing the name of a dead philosopher at the end of it.
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