NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The elusive British artist Banksy has been the talk of New York in recent days, since his graffiti works have begun appearing around the city in what he called an attempt to “host an entire show on the streets of New York.”
Banksy has been posting pictures of his work on his website, and fans have been plastering the images all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Banksy began his month-long “residency” in New York with a stencil image of two turn-of-the century street urchins on Allen Street on the Lower East Side. In the image that appeared this past Tuesday, one boy appears hunched over, while the other stands on his back reaching for a spray bottle crossed out on a sign reading “graffiti is a crime.”
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The work was quickly covered up in white paint, but it was only the beginning of the artist’s efforts.
Jennifer Hawkins, who runs a public relations agency in Chelsea, posted pictures on Facebook after finding “a Banksy sighting right out my office backdoor,” on 24th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
Spray-painted on a building wall already defaced by illegible scrawls, the graffiti shows a black silhouette of a dog lifting his leg on a fire hydrant, with the words “You complete me” in a cartoon bubble.
“My favorite part of the whole thing is having the little groupies standing out there,” Hawkins said, referring to the small crowds of fans taking pictures.
The Daily Telegraph, a British outlet, has created an online map to try to keep track of the images. The Museum of Modern Art posted links on its Twitter feed with a “Banksy watch” tag.
Banksy is calling the New York City effort “Better Out Than In,” a reference to a quote by impressionist Paul Cezanne, “All pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those
His website 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.
On Friday, Banksy captioned three pictures posted Friday as “Random graffiti given a Broadway makeover (an ongoing series).”
The pictures showed the words “The Musical,” stamped in a stenciled script beneath existing scrawls, so that they read, “Dirty Underwear, The Musical,” ”Occupy! The Musical” and “Playground Mob, The Musical.” He also gave rough locations for the three as Delancey Street on the Lower East Side and in Bushwick and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
On Saturday, Banksy unveiled a delivery truck with its interior redecorated as a “mobile garden,” featuring a waterfall, rocks, butterflies and a rainbow painted at the rear. The truck drew a crowd when it was spotted on St. Mark’s Place between Second and Third avenues in the East Village, according to published reports.
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.
Banksy — who refuses to give his real name — began his career in the British city of Bristol spray-painting local buildings. His works now fetch thousands of dollars around the world, but many of his street paintings have been defaced, destroyed or removed.
Banksy’s 2010 documentary “Exit through the Gift Shop” – which revealed less about the artist himself than the story of an obsessive fan who set out to make a film about him – was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
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