Bingo 16: Cold
A lot of Banksy: Completed is about how the art world establishment looks down on Banksy and his popularity with the general public; the whole thing is almost more of a manifesto in defense of the popular as it is an introduction to the graffiti artist and his work. A good chunk of the middle of the book is less about Banksy and more about the art world and art critics who have given this type of art and the people who like it “the cold shoulder”. Not that Bansky would care; his aesthetic and approach to art seems to be more anti-establishment anyways.
In a lot of ways Banksy is the Chuck Tingle of the art world, although I think Banksy has actually been around a bit longer. His art has a large following, but little critical appreciation; no one really knows who the person is, or maybe it’s been passed down ala Dread Pirate Roberts or maybe the name is actually a collective working together. Social media is the main way the artist communicates with the public, and new works sometimes just suddenly appear. There has been a flash or two of genuine recognition or attention, but mostly the artist just does his own thing and seems to do just fine that way. In a lot of ways, the mythos is almost as much a part of the art as the actual product. The art itself is often described as obvious and thus not meaningful, yet it’s also got a strong does of social commentary embedded.
The book overall has about three chapters on Banksy’s history as an artist, in the late 90s, the 2000’s, and the 2010s. The remainder is about various street art trends and figures, some of which might be more directly relevant to Bansky than others; the mainstream, high end art world is present mostly to look down on Banksy, although the author here is defending his popularity somewhat by at least seeking to justify it as ‘art’. The Bansky chapters tend to focus on major things that made the news; what I’m calling the 2010s section focuses on 3 recent-ish Bansky news stories: the self-shredding auctioned painting, Dismaland, a collaboration with a bunch of other artists that took place in an abandoned theme park, and The Walled Off Hotel, an actual art hotel that might still be running in Bethlehem.
The speculation towards the end about how Banksy makes a living and how much “he” might actually be worth kind of ruins the vibe of the book, but at the same time, the practical questions like that are also a part of the book throughout, especially given that a lot of the time, Banksy’s works seem to get taken out of their original public context and sold by an auction house to a private collector without Banksy’s explicit consent. This is the mostly unspoken irony; that the high end art world would reject a graffiti artist, and yet be apparently quite willing to make money off of ‘his’ works.