Is graffiti fine art? Graffiti is generally illegal and quickly painted over, but not for Banksy. In Bristol, England, popular opinion demanded that one of Banksy’s paintings not be destroyed even though it was a provocative image on a public building.
Banksy–no one knows his proper name or what he looks like–uses spray paint, stencils and public buildings to create his artworks. He trespasses, hopping fences and scaling walls. His work is often commentary on the area around it and thus can be shocking or provoking. Why is his work so appreciated, and how is he not in jail?
As it happens, Banksy is just incredibly famous. His documentary on graffiti showed at the Edwards Theatre at University Town Center recently. His art can be seen everywhere, from popular iPhone backgrounds to the book in our school library. You may be reading this article because you had previously heard of him or knew who he was.
His fame is not unfounded. Banksy demonstrates incredible skill in creating gigantic stencils and painting them with multiple colors in public places without getting caught. The content of his artwork is highly meaningful; they often portray anti-establishment messages and other social commentary. For example, during the London Olympics, he painted Olympic athletes tossing missiles instead of javelins.
Banksy has done more than just satirize society. Banksy’s fame (a mix of both infamy and celebration) has popularized street art. His art sells like any other contemporary art, even though it is often illegally painted in public spaces. Banksy’s creations are displayed both in the dark alleys of bustling cities and in fine art museums.
This is why I find Banksy so incredibly fascinating. His art hovers somewhere between common graffiti and untouchable masterpiece; yet, he manages to mock graffiti, masterpiece and everything in between all the while. Even those who are underwhelmed by Banksy’s artwork or morally disturbed by his quasi-illegal practices cannot deny his incredible influence on contemporary art. For Banksy, graffiti is fine art, and fine art is just graffiti.
By EMMA REMY