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Banksy Fever Grips New Yorkers As Daily Hunt For Street Art Continues

Elusive Artist Is In New York For One-Month 'Residency'

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As elusive street artist Banksy continues his month-long “residency” in New York, devoted fans are watching every day to find out where his latest work might turn up.

As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, Banksy’s work has sold for millions to the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But no one has ever so much as confirmed his real name.

But crowds have been crazy for him ever since his art show of sorts, titled “Better Out Than In,” debuted in New York in October.

On Wednesday, his latest work appeared on the Lower East Side, where he used the side of a truck and a car as his canvas. Fans were even willing to climb over a barbed wire fence to get a closer look.

“It’s a big mystery who he is,” said Nic Garcia. “Everything is shrouded in darkness.”

The British artist did provide an e-mail interview to the Village Voice for the paper’s issue this week. He told the newspaper that there is “absolutely no reason for doing this show at all,” with no gallery show, book or film, and called his New York residency “pointless, which hopefully means something.”

Banksy also told the newspaper that he plans to live in New York for a month during which he will see and paint on the sights. “Some of it will be pretty elaborate, and some will just be a scrawl on a toilet wall,” he told the newspaper by e-mail.

But the questions of where Banksy is actually living while he’s in New York, and how long he will be staying, remained unanswered in the interview. And thus, the man known as Banksy remains a mystery, even though his work has appeared on walls across the world.

Banksy’s 2010 documentary “Exit through the Gift Shop” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. But it revealed less about the artist himself than the story of an obsessive fan who set out to make a film about him.

In the documentary, he appeared in disguise, saying selling his work has never been his goal.

“Everything was going a bit crazy and suddenly it became about the money, but it never was about the money,” he said in the documentary.

Banksy communicates with his fans through social media, giving them hints about where his next creation will appear. During his “Better Out Than In” residency, he is unveiling a new piece in New York each day, but it’s up to his fans to find the art.

He posts photos of his latest works each day on both his website and Instagram.

His website also includes a toll-free number and an online “Click here to listen” button with commentary on each image that spoofs the pre-recorded cellphone tours commonly offered at museum exhibits. The commentary mispronounces his name as Ban-sky and is read against a soundtrack of cheesy elevator music.

One line from the phone tour says: “You’re looking at a type of picture called graffiti, from the Latin graffito, which means graffiti with an O.”

The commentary goes on to say, “Let us pause for a moment to consider the deeper meaning of this work. OK, that’s long enough,” later adding, “What exactly is the artist trying to say here? … Perhaps it is a postmodern comment on how the signifiers of objects have become as real as the object themselves. Are you kidding me? Who writes this stuff? Anyway, you decide.”

Banksy’s website for the New York project has posted images for every day of the month so far, except for Sunday when he instead captured “socking footage” of a “rebel rocket attack” in the Middle East.

Fans are excited to take Banksy up on the offer to find his latest works.

“The excitement is on the same scale as a treasure hunt for buried treasure,” said Banksy fan Perry Levy.

And it is indeed buried. The latest piece unveiled Wednesday, showing charging horses clad in military gear, was covered in a blue tarp for days — even local business owners had no idea what was being created.

“In the morning, I come out and there’s a bunch of people taking pictures, videos, hopping over the fences,” said Eli Mavlyanov of New York Barberrs. “As you can, see it’s amazing.”

Not everyone has been enthusiastic about Banksy’s artistic antics. In a Sunday editorial, the New York Daily News proclaimed that graffiti is vandalism and pointed out that all of the Banksy artworks were painted on walls without the owners’ permission.

The newspaper also pointed out that graffiti was a blight on walls, buildings and subway cars from the 1970s through the 1990s. The paper said further that graffiti remains symbolic of a “climate of demoralization and disorder,” and costs the city about $2 million a year to clean.”

Meanwhile, the website Buzzfeed urged readers to have a look at New York’s own local graffiti artists, including Jilly Ballistic – a street and subway artist known for her political themes often featuring World War I and II-era soldiers, and “Poster Boy” — who is known for cutting apart subway ads and pasting them back together in different positions to create sardonic messages.

Fans in New York have 22 more days to chase down his work. After that, who knows where his art will pop up?

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)