There is a buzz in New York City this month. It’s a buzz that is playing out over Twitter and Facebook; the unknown/known graffiti artist Banksy is in town and embellishing buildings intricately with his small graffiti works. This is all part of his October project, ‘Better Out Than In’.
It is an exciting project and what struck me the most about it is his clever manipulation of the public. The most astonishing thing happened on the weekend of 12th October. A stall of Banksy’s original works was set up in Central Park attended by an old man – ordinary looking, like any other of the poster sellers on that stretch of pavement. Only three sales were made during the whole day, totalling $420. One buyer commented that he was only doing so to ‘put something on the walls’. It is only at the end of the day that Banksy stated on his website that these were 100% authentic and original pieces of his work. Amazing. So why did he do it? And why did no one buy them?!
Until we have a personal conversation with the artist we will never know but I believe that the aim of the stall was to be ironic, after all this is Bansky we’re talking about; Bansky knows what the public want and offered it to them this weekend when they weren’t even looking. It’s a witty quip which says so much about the art market today.
Banksy’s Central Park stall also symbolises the binaries between reproduction and authenticity. We are now used to seeing reproductions of great artworks, making art accessible to everyone in some (albeit diminished) form. Walk down the sidewalk in Central Park and it’s not long before you spot an Andy Warhol postcard – or a reproduction of another great artist, even one of Banksy himself. So I guess what Banksy was doing through his stall was confounding our expectations.
Of course, this project could just be a publicity stunt, to give people another glimpse into Banksy’s hidden life and increase his popularity. Whether or not it is, it’s worked on me. I’m interested and looking forward to whatever’s coming next. I’ll also never walk past a stall selling Banksy repros again without giving it a second look. Will you?
Check out Bansky’s blog about the project here : http://www.banksyny.com/
Bansky also created a video filmed at the Market Stall.