The Artist as Self-Booster

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DO NOT make your way through comment threads, or click through to off-site links, here is the comment by Banksy referred to earlier by reader Sam at the end of a comment thread:

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Whether you agree with it or not, you have to admit it is a bit rich coming from a product of high hype like Banksy. His own work is notable more for its location—on walls or the façades of buildings—than its content.  His contributions to contemporary Western culture hover at the level of a one-glance, graphic up-yours. Sometimes they are amusing; sometimes simply brash, a graphic middle finger to the viewer.  His cleverness is the kind that runs in packs with Photoshop open. We’ve seen it all before. Hugo Gellert was doing it for New Masses back in the 1920s when the manipulation and collaging of images was still novel. The catalog of formal progeny is a long one: Hannah Hoch in the ’30s, Will Baumeister in the ’40s, an army of others into the present.

Nowadays, it is an industry standard in advertising layouts. Banky’s innovation is to put it in the street. Here is his addition to the ambience of Portobello Road, priced at £200,000:

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That is one I quite like. But it is also indistinguishable, except for the price tag, from whole swaths of commercial artwork. The product for sale here is Banksy, the artist-as-self-marketeer. Like any other product of the advertising industry, the work on the wall is inseparable from its economic purpose: to stimulate interest in and desire for the goods. It addresses the viewer as a consumer out shopping for cultural stuffs.

Put another way, this [Thanks to an anonymous reader!] serves nicely as an objective correlative to the Banksy brand:

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by Matthew Difee

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© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey

2 Comments


  1. Banksy reminds me of Barbara Kruger. Am I the only one who thinks so?


  2. No, you are not the only one. Thanks for the reminder. (Kruger herself began in advertising.)

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