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Wednesday October 16, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 16, 2013 MYT 7:56:08 AM
by jennie matthew
The latest work from street artist Banksy, seen through a chain link fence, in the Lower East Side neighbourhood of New York City. — AFP
British street artist Banksy sets New Yorkers on the chase.
WORLD-famous – and famously reclusive – artist Banksy is loose on the streets of New York City, hosting a unique show that has whipped up excitement among hipsters and the chattering classes.
The Britain-based graffiti maestro, who has never been formally identified, has promised to unveil a new piece of art on each day of the month somewhere in the city.
His stencilled designs, known for their irreverent humour and political activism, have propelled him from a graffiti rebel to reluctant star whose work sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the New York show is free, public, and accessible to all.
Painted in secret and announced online, fans rush to track down the elusive piece before they are painted over or “tagged” by rival graffiti artists, often within hours of going viral.
And the name of the show? Better Out Than In.
“It’s just so intriguing, it’s like a chase,” says actor Lisa Rowe-Beddoe, who has visited each of Banksy’s three pieces to date. Her mission is to track them down the full set by the end of this month.
The New York show has an Instagram account, which already has around 30,000 followers. The website banksy.co.uk posts photographs of the work and @banksyny posts cryptic messages on Twitter.
“There’s something just brilliant about Banksy. He’s just so original,” says Rowe-Beddoe. “It’s interactive. It’s cool, plus he says cool things.”
One piece – a black dog urinating on a hydrant with the words “You complete me” in a speech bubble and the caption “a shoulder to crayon” – attracted a huge crowd recently.
“It’s a buzz,” says Ken Brown, who writes a blog about street culture as he takes pictures of the crowd. “And because he’s so well known, it’ll be a boon to New York”.
Brown was bitterly disappointed when he got to the first Banksy, which appeared on a wall in Chinatown earlier, to find it was already buffed.
“I’m a long-time admirer of Banksy. I feel he’s really a rarified genius. He gets humour and puts a lot of things that are missing into his pieces,” he says.
Fans can access an audio commentary from a toll-free number inked to the ground, or on the website.
The narration from a man with a smooth American accent, introduced by the kind of muzak piped out in elevators, is clever and languid.
“Are you looking at one of the great artworks of the 21st century? If so you’re in the wrong place. You should be looking at a stencil of a dog peeing on a hydrant,” he drawls.
“It’s a well known truism that the mark of a great artist is their ability to capture light, so you will note that this piece is rendered entirely in silhouette.”
It this irreverence that appeals to Banksy fans. “I’ve been waiting my whole life since high school to see one,” gushed Ronin Wood, a 24-year-old graphic designer, whipping out his cell phone in uber-cool art neighbourhood.
“This is my New York accent,” was spray painted in thick letters onto a garage door under a disused railway bridge Wednesday, followed by “... normally I write like this” in smaller italic script.
“It’s really exciting and really hilarious,” laughs Wood, noting the fresh graffiti was daubed in the heart of the gallery district.
Down the road is an art installation of sheep on grass. Next door is a slick gallery.
Banksy’s views on the exorbitant sums paid for his art have been expressed in the Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop and people can download photos from his website for free. – AFP
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