But In Published Reports, Police Say Artist Has Not Been Arrested

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — British street artist Banksy was taking the day off from creating artworks for his New York “residency” Wednesday, for what he called “police activity.”

Fans of the artist were greeted by a minimalist posting on Banksy’s website Wednesday, reading, “Today’s art has been canceled due to police activity.”

The artist did not elaborate, but NYPD officials quoted in published reports said he had not been arrested. A comment on Banksy’s Instagram site claimed that a “friend at 79th precinct (in Brooklyn) said they nabbed Banksy and 2 helpers in the act this morning around 6:00 a.m.,” but the NYPD told multiple publications that this report was not true.

In a tweet early Wednesday afternoon, the website Brokelyn suggested that the “police activity” message was a piece of performance art.

“Banksy making people think he got arrested today IS the art. Duh,” Brokelyn said in the tweet.

Last week, the New York Post published a front-page headline reading, “GET BANKSY!” An accompanying story claimed police were “going all out” to find Banksy, and quoted unnamed law enforcement sources who said police wanted to arrest the artist and charge him with vandalism.

But Banksy himself dismissed the article on his own website, posting a photo of the newspaper with the comment, “I don’t read what I believe in the papers.”

A retired NYPD officer later told Gothamist that Banksy could not be arrested unless a building owner files a complaint.

Fans have been flocking to see Banksy’s daily installations. Most of the Banksy works that have gone up have been tagged over by others, and some have been completely erased.

The artist has now set up installations in all five boroughs. The latest installment came Tuesday in Queens, where he chose a desolate, muddy lot in front of a chain-link and barbed-wire fence in Willets Point for a replica of the iconic Egyptian Sphinx.

“No turn unstoned. A 1/36 scale replica of the great Sphinx of Giza made from smashed cinderblocks,” Banksy wrote on his website. “You’re advised not to drink the replica Arab spring water.”

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The sculpture appeared at 35th Avenue and 127th Street in Queens, according to published reports. It is the 22nd installment since Banksy began his “Better out than in” residency in New York at the start of October.

Within hours of its appearance, the sphinx sculpture was dismantled and hauled off. A gallery offered Bernardo “Choco” Veles, the owner of the auto glass shop on whose property the sculpture was erected, a hefty sum of money, according to a New York Post report.

While fans have been excited, some have expressed strong disapproval at Banksy’s graffiti tactics, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Graffiti does ruin people’s property and is a sign of decay and a loss of control,” Bloomberg said last week.

“Art is art, and nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am,” he added. “I just think there are some places for art, and there are some places (for) no art. And you running up to someone’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art.”

Banksy posts photos of his latest works each day on both his website and Instagram; fans have also been putting images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Earlier this month, Banksy also set up a stall in Central Park with original signed works that he was selling for only $60 apiece.

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