Banksy’s lost his anonymity, and with it, his credibility

New Yorkers are charging  tourists $20 to view a new Banksy work - but the Bristolian street artist commoditised himself long ago anyway

Related Topics

The news that a gang of burly New Yorkers have been charging street-art aficionados $20 a pop to see a Banksy that recently appeared in their neighbourhood shouldn’t come as overly shocking news – especially following a spate of mysteriously disappearing works, which subsequently surface at international art auctions.

In contrast to these big-bucks ‘acquisitions’ by art dealers, though, there’s a quaintness to this local operation that lets it become more human, and less trite than the actual cartoon image stenciled onto the wall. While Banksy-lovers around the world probably dribbled their morning coffees in disgust, the story adds a rare element of local colour to a work by an artist who has, in recent years, become more and more divorced from the streets on which he paints.

Banksy is now a big-name brand, and, like any other successful purveyor of commodities, he (who could equally be a she) can be summed up with reference to his products (pictures that make you momentarily go “Oh yeah”), and his target market (people trying to look cool). This wasn’t always the case  - in situ, and with the threat of erasure or over-painting, the momentary “Oh yeah” experience was a novelty; those seeing his work felt something personal and unexpected in a world where almost every image on the street is trying to sell you more schmutter. There was no brand, and no target market.

But now – and this is something that Banksy himself recognizes in his film, Exit Through The Gift Shop – endless press attention, reproductions of his work, and celebrity recognition have turned Banksy into a commodity to be sold to hipsters and hoorahs. He’s no longer a mysterious spray-can-in-the-night, and his work no longer belongs to Jane and Joe Bloggs of Everytown. The street-art mini-mafia that has popped up in New York shows that Banksy, as a brand, symbolizes something outside of their world – and that this symbol is so large and bright that it’s able to obstruct any sense or feeling that might arise from the work itself.

No-one can really say that Banksy is anonymous anymore: we might never find out his real name, and we might never see his face, but Banksy is now a celebrity like any other, and, like anyone who allows their public image to obscure their real work, has lost much of his credibility. Luckily, though, Banksy will always have an advantage over other celebrities: the power of metamorphosis, and a total re-brand. I hope, given the increasing commercialization of his work, that Banksy will use this soon, and that none of us will ever be any the wiser.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own