It’s a strange story but perhaps an inevitable one. Banksy recently painted some walls in Detroit which is not a big deal except that artists from the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios decided to appropriate part of one wall in the name of preserving what they feel is an important work of art. Story here.
(JASON H. MATTHEWS/Special to the Free Press)
So Banksy gets more publicity, the artists of 555 get tons of free major publicity, and the whole concept of graffiti as a fine art goes through a new layer of complexity. Graffiti has been around a long, long time – cave paintings? – and the question of whether or not graffiti is art is hardly debatable any longer. But what is at stake in terms of “the museum”? Curators and Fine Art Aficionados know very well that if you bring Andy Warhol in, then Banksy needs to be on the invitation list too. That’s a no-brainer at least in terms of content, style, etc. The problem is not only the traditional legal issues surrounding graffiti production (e.g. trespassing, vandalism), but one that also blows open the doors again to ideas concerning “ownership” and “authorship” let alone whether “re-appropriation” of graffiti for academic, exhibition, or “preservation” purposes stands on any kind of useful ground. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of this.
The golden age of graffiti in Montreal was around the mid 1990’s. The Redpath Sugar plant in Point Saint Charles featured a “wall of fame” for local graffiti artists, and it was one of the city’s great legendary abandoned factories before it was transformed into a condo community. Here it is in it’s usual state of sabotage and renewal.
And some images from that time. I really am not sure that any kind of gallery setting can do justice to these works. Usually you also have to trespass to see these things so it simply becomes a totally different kind of experience.