It’s half a million quid’s worth of my property, or it belongs to the community? When did Graffiti become so valuable? When the Art world got involved that’s when.
When Banksy, the Über-cool underground graffiti merchant decide to deface the wall of Poundland in Haringey in the middle of the night, in the eyes of some, he had ceased to be a graffiti merchant and had become an artist of merit graciously donating his precious works to the community. Not that the work had any great technical merit, you understand, you can’t achieve technical merit when you are dodging policemen with spray can in hand, but Über-cool is Über-valuable in the art world, and one is obliged to use pretentious foreign language prepositions like Über if you are going to write about it. It is also obligatory to refer to those who have to walk past this graffiti every day as ‘the community’.
Naturally, communities have community leaders these days. So it is in Haringey. When someone (we will discuss later who ‘someone’ might be) removed this graffiti and put it up for sale in America, ‘community leader’ Alan Strickland (who is what we used to call a local councillor in the pre-Über times, before we found out where the umlaut key was) invoked the might of the Arts Council to ‘explore whether this art work was being exported appropriately’ (good luck with that one – it’s less than 50 years old thus not covered by the relevant legislation).
“People are rightly disgusted that a gift to the community could be privately sold for huge profit,” said Alan Strickland.
Why would they be disgusted at private property being sold at a profit? That apparently stems from them being terribly depressed at having destroyed acres of private property by their own hands during the 2011 riots.
Councilor Alan Strickland said the work had become “a real symbol of local pride” in an area badly hit in England’s August 2011 riots. He said its disappearance had left residents “shocked and angry.”
Needless to say, an MP was soon legging it along behind the bandwagon, as fast as her little legs could carry her:
“(It’s) totally unethical that something so valued should be torn without warning from its community context.” said Lynne Featherstone.
If I could be bothered, I’d be out tonight painting some suitable graffiti on Lynne Feathestone’s front door just to see how long it takes before an original Anna Raccoon, in fact possibly the only one in existence, is ‘torn without warning from its community context’……
It has, of course, become incredibly down-wi-da-yoof (can I sneak another Über-cool in here?) to admire the skill involved in pulling your hoodie over your eyes, pushing your wooden handcart down the street in the middle of the night, attaching a stencil to someone else’s wall and letting rip with the spray can – just so long as it’s not your million pound pile in Primrose Hill that gets defaced, and so long as its being done by someone who loathes the Royal family, (why even Murdoch’s Sunday Times commissioned Banksy to deface a wall in aid of its front cover and actually filmed him committing this criminal act) and the ‘artist’ believes that all property is theft, everyone should get an upgrade in their dole money and all right wing politicians should be hung…it’s a thrilling dip-your-toe in harmless anarchy and establishment poking. How naughty!
Add in a dollop of Pseud’s Corner from the art world, with a soupçon (I’m getting the hang of this) of Liberal hand wringing mansion envy (so long as it’s not their mansion) and one stencil on the side of Poundland, that proudly iconic food hall of the horse-meat eating class, has become an artifact to rival the Elgin marbles. Only one thing missing from this trip through the left wing lexicon. What could it be? We’ve done ‘appropriately’, unethical, Über, and community…ah so, a Twitter campaign!
“Pls RT. Save our Banksy from sale. Let’s all email art company auctioning it on firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them to withdraw it from auction.”
And Yea! Councillor Strickland’s Twitter campaign resulted in thousands of Retweets, and abusive phone calls to the auctioneers.
Critics have accused the auction house of dealing in stolen property but Thut insisted earlier in the week that the consignor, who he described as a “well-known collector”, was the rightful owner and that the sale was legal.
He added that his gallery had been inundated with emails and phone calls from the UK, saying that many of them were abusive or offensive.
Poundland, meanwhile, had instructed their ‘social media executive’ (every firm should have one) to send out a stream of Tweets denying that they owned the building, nor had anything to do with removing the graffiti.
Claire Kober, the leader of Haringey council, wrote to Arts Council England and the mayor of Miami, Tomas Regalado, to ask them to intervene to stop the sale but it appears the decision to withdraw the item came from the gallery owners in consultation with their lawyers. The FBI refused to confirm reports they were asked to investigate.
Yes, mob rule was successful. They had managed to stop an individual selling his property through a combination of emotive declarations and ‘the power of the community’.
By this time the value of a lump of concrete defaced by an anonymous individual had soared to half a million quid. The Banksy PR department, whether controlled by him or not, was not finished yet. On Friday afternoon came news to horrify any left wing foot-soldier. Banksy had been arrested, named, and charged with vandalism and counterfeiting.
Were the troops horrified that their iconic artiste (I thought I’d add an ‘e’ there for effect) proved to have such a love of the filthy lucre that he had taken up counterfeiting? Nope, they didn’t even mention it. Were they appalled that his art was described as vandalism? One or two mentioned it, but only in passing – but to a man, they rose up in horror at the idea of the ‘bloody pigs’ daring to name their precious anonymous hero. They flooded Twitter. How could ‘the pigs’ name Che Guevara’s successor, Haringey’s own freedom-from the-chains-of-capitalism (but don’t stop my dole money yet) fighter as a boring ‘Paul’ from suburbia? They haven’t been so outraged since the Daily Mail tried to claim that he was an ordinary cock-Robin from Bristol – and a public schoolboy to boot.
“Banksy is not one, but of the many, anonymous and embedded in the collective mind of the rationals. More valuable than any Picasso, Vermeer, Gaugain or smirking portrait creator, Banksy is among us, all.”
The Police station where he was alleged to be held was flooded with fake Banksy’s, all telling them they had the wrong Banksy…”I’m Sparticus”.
It was, of course, a hoax press release. So what, Banksy was once more trending on Twitter, the ‘Banksy’ is still to be sold.
Someone, somewhere will soon be laughing all the way to the banksy.