LONDON STREET ART: BANKSY vs. BASQUIAT vs. HARING

My Monday started out calmly enough…and then I received an instant message from a friend saying “Quick!” ~ with a link to a Guardian article about the newest Banksy piece (two, actually) that popped up at the Barbican Centre over the weekend. So, I dropped everything ~ due to my past history with Banksy’s NYC Residency in 2013 ~ https://www.amazon.com/My-Month-Banksy-October-2013/dp/1494258447 ~ and the anxiety ensued – feeling like it was a race against time, to get there, document it…in case other people had ideas ~ like vandalizing it, covering it up, etc…. ~ and I’m just passing through London, so I needed to figure out the best way to get there. Not wanting to influence your interpretation (although, there is one caption in the middle explaining Basquiat’s crown) while viewing the photos, I placed my analyses at the very bottom of the post. Would love to hear your thoughts: 

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Wanted to confirm its authenticity by going to Banksy’s official IG page…

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The Banksy part is the Basquiat getting patted down by the police. The Keith Haring-inspired bit was added and I don’t know by whom…It looks like the skater sees the pat down by the police and is like “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot your crown!” and is leaping over the officer to put it on Basquiat’s head in order to nullify the invasive search. “A crown appears frequently in the early work of Jean-Michel Basquiat signaling his ambition and understanding of art history. Many artists used their monarchs to symbolize their own majestic powers and Basquiat, lacking one, continued the tradition in his own way. Besides, Basquiat was ambitious and out to become king of the pack. One friend who knew him early on wrote: “He could walk into a thrift store with five bucks and come out looking like a king. In fact he basically behaved like a king who had accidentally switched lives with an identical pauper.” http://www.everypainterpaintshimself.com/article/basquiats_crownsIMG_0935IMG_0936IMG_0937IMG_0938IMG_0941IMG_0942IMG_0943IMG_0944IMG_0945IMG_0946IMG_0947IMG_0951IMG_0957IMG_0959IMG_0962IMG_0963IMG_0964IMG_0970IMG_0971IMG_0982DCIM100GOPROG0036928.IMG_0996DCIM100GOPROG0056964.IMG_0997IMG_0999IMG_1001IMG_1002IMG_1003IMG_1004IMG_1005IMG_1006IMG_1008IMG_1009IMG_1012IMG_1013IMG_1014IMG_1017IMG_1018IMG_1019IMG_1020IMG_1021IMG_1022IMG_1023IMG_1024IMG_1025IMG_1026IMG_1027IMG_1028IMG_1030IMG_1033IMG_0756IMG_0769

1 – People interacting with Banksy pieces is an extension of the art itself…

2 – A man approached me and asked me “Do you think this is OK to do?” I replied “Do you?” He said “I asked you the question.” Me: “I’m asking YOU.” He replied: “No, I don’t. This is vandalism.” I said “Well, I love it.” Him: “It’s a Grade II building.”  (Grade 2 listed building restrictions and Grade 2 listed building regulations:  Restrictions are there to protect the historic significance of the building.  Any change which affects the listed fabric of the building is illegal unless approved by your LA (Local Authority). http://www.heritage-consulting.org/grade-2-building-restrictions

I said “It’s obvious that this is a collaboration between Banksy and the Barbican and that they approved it.” (Just taking note of their security staff protecting it)  Him: “Well, if they did, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble!” Me: “I guess we’ll know more in the next few weeks as people research it more and write about it.” He left in a huff.

3 – Some observations I made with the main piece:

a. The female police officer appears to have a red dot on her forehead which I relate to the Hindu religion. I can’t figure out why it’s there. “A vermilion mark in the parting of the hair just above the forehead is worn by married women as commitment to long-life and well-being of their husbands.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bindi_(decoration)

b. I was disappointed with her right hand, thinking Banksy got lazy with his stenciling, but it’s more likely that he intended for his signature style to MERGE into Basquiat’s. And that makes it a brilliant move.

c. The “POLICE” stencil on the back of the male officer – it doesn’t CLEARLY spell out P O L I C E. You can barely see the “I,” if at all, and the “C” almost looks like another “O.” Why? He’s the best stencil artist. Why is this unclear?

The second, smaller piece:

1 – “Watching the Basquiat Crowns go round and round…” The ticket stand hearkens back “Dismaland” to me. The ferris wheel, an allusion to the London Eye?

a. The aluminum foil crown on the ground below the piece, was strategically placed there by the people running it. Trust me, you weren’t allowed to take it, so that’s another indication of the ‘staging’ of this event. 

“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” ~ Basquiat

“Nothing is important…so everything is important.” ~ Haring

“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”  ~ Banksy

There’s already a lot of controversy surrounding these two new pieces. Again, people are calling Banksy a ‘sell-out.’ This time, for seeming to fall right into the advertisers’ pockets by doing these blatantly obvious ‘promotional pieces’ for the upcoming Basquiat show at the Barbican Centre. So, the quote from him above, is quite interesting…

Political Analysis:

I saw on Facebook that people were wondering when someone was going to wring a political message out of this, so here you go:

a. Possibly there’s a message related to the lack of freedom and ease of entry into the U.K., especially with the current ‘Brexit attitude.’ It may be saying that even if you’re Basquiat, you’re still black, and we’re going to make it very difficult for you. Or, that can go back to the sea I have that the female officer is Hindu and this is Banksy promoting diversity in the U.K.

I’m an unapologetic fan of Banksy and had the time of my life covering his “NYC Residency” in October 2013. If you’re interested in learning more about that, please click on the link and pick up a copy of my book. 🙂 https://www.amazon.com/My-Month-Banksy-October-2013/dp/1494258447

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4 thoughts on “LONDON STREET ART: BANKSY vs. BASQUIAT vs. HARING

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