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It’s been bothering me all week. I’ve never been particularly taken with Banksy’s work – it’s fine, and seems to work in the context of a graffitied environment, raising the level of work there above that of tagging (of which much has been written elsewhere, and in a more informed manner than I can manage. Go and find some, it’s more interesting than it first appears) – but the idea that he’s exhibiting in a gallery struck me as wrong. It took a while to figure it out, but I think I know why it nags.

Banksy spent most of his career ridiculing the gallery system. Which is, without a doubt, stifled by hierarchy and positions of power, influence and prestige – none of which has anything to do with good art. His placing of work within a gallery context was designed to provoke debate, to throw an idea into the staid environment of the worshipful, white-walled galleria. And it worked. The agitprop graffiti artist sticking two fingers up to the establishment. Work smuggled into the Tate Gallery is fine, it makes a point, people listen and talk about it.

Then this. A gallery show. Which simply, sorry, doesn’t work. It doesn’t. It’s badly thought through, and misses the point so completely, so massively, that it’s as if the press release and covering commentary was written by a particularly poor contributor to Banksy’s wikipedia page. If you’ve spent your entire career pointing out the ridiculous, obscene nature of gallery spaces, then why exhibit in one? And no-one tell me that he’s bringing the system down from within, or that it’s different because it’s Banksy. It isn’t. He was accused of selling his soul when he started selling work to Brad and Angelina. This time, it’s not anything as ambitious as his soul. He’s simply sold out.


11 comments for “Gallery/Cathedral/Street”

  1. Are you suggesting that people who spaz their guts up all over Wikipedia, pig-headedly bleating that they must, incontrovertibly be totally and utterly correct on whatever subject their mum has picked for them to comment on, are a bunch of brain damaged shitsacks?


    Posted by mongo | June 20, 2009, 6:59 pm
  2. Good post. I mostly agree with what you say, but aren’t you overlooking the fact that Bristol Museum isn’t exactly a gallery? I’d agree fully that this exhibition put somewhere like the Tate Gallery and advertised in this manner would be opposed to what Banksy originally stands for (or is believed to stand for). I think ‘Banksy versus Bristol Museum’ is to be seen as a performance and a thoroughly planned one. It is supposed to look like an act of anarchy where the ominous street artist named Banksy overtook a socially sacred space of education where classic paintings, pottery and stuffed animals are exhibited for the taxpayers enjoyment and ‘vandalised’ it with various of his famous (ie. recognisable) artworks which are mostly trying to educate the public with their fairly simple but effectively enough communicated agitprop. This is not the Banksy-little-Bristol-anarcho-boi-graffiti-artist anymore, this is a collective of highly skilled professionals staging a performance around a myth that the public is happy to buy into and queue for. It annoys me, because the work is good as it is, it doesn’t need this silly ‘hey check out how anarchist we are, we can take over a museum and nobody can stop us’ story. The work on display is skillfully executed, witty and clever. The rest is just childish.

    Posted by Paz | June 21, 2009, 5:40 pm
  3. Paz – agreed – But the gallery as cathedral / sacred space is the common factor. Accepting that Bristol Museum isn’t a traditional art gallery per se, it still evokes that ’stand before Art and worship’ mentality inherent in organised exhibitions.

    The notion that this has become a cultural myth is interesting – as is the idea that this isn’t ‘Banksy’ any more and hasn’t been for some time.

    Is it though, that ‘Banksy vs Bristol Museum’ is supposed (planned?) to act as a performance, or that as a performance is the only framework within which this has any validity?

    Posted by tom | June 21, 2009, 6:09 pm
  4. I am sorry about this – but I just think you are a wanker.

    Posted by paul allender | July 20, 2009, 4:45 pm
  5. Dear Paul

    In what way? Because I asked a question, rather than bowing in automatic worship before the altar of Bansky? Or was it the way I phrased it?



    Posted by tom | July 20, 2009, 5:22 pm
  6. It’s neither of these, nothing to do with Banksy. – it’s the whole context of your blog. It feels to me that you have spent your whole life in a middle-class world of slightly precious ideas and ways of conceiving the world, cyber and otherwise, and have not had much connection with the world outside new media, universities, films and books. It makes me cringe!
    Sorry though if I caused any offence…

    Posted by paul allender | July 21, 2009, 1:58 pm
  7. Paul

    In that case, I have to ask why you’re reading it? If someone’s writing makes me cringe then I don’t read it (unless I’m being paid to). There are plenty of other things to read, and no-one is taping your eyes open and sticking this blog in front of them (unless they are, in which case you have bigger problems than my opinions and writing style).

    Posted by tom | July 21, 2009, 2:13 pm
  8. your response says it all really…

    Posted by paul allender | July 21, 2009, 3:27 pm
  9. Paul,


    Why are you reading this? It can’t be academic interest?

    Posted by tom | July 21, 2009, 3:38 pm
  10. Just curious, are you the same Paul Bellender who Google reveals to be a member of staggeringly shit, puerile wank-peddlers “Cradle of Twats”? A band so nauseatingly pathetic that ten out of ten humans said they’d rather undergo dental torture than be forced to listen to it?

    Or are you just a similarly-named wanker with a big old chip on his shoulder?

    You call someone a wanker then apologise if you caused offence?


    I think your doctor needs to move you onto stronger pills, these ones aren’t working. And he told you you’re not supposed to stick them up your bum, even though you enjoy it so much.

    Posted by Fred | July 21, 2009, 3:43 pm
  11. Tom,

    I feel the need to explain myself.

    Since the accident in which I lost my genitals to a king charles spaniel, I have found solace in trawling the internet, leaving embarrassingly fatuous and stupid comments on various websites which contain long words that make me feel inadequate because I don’t understand them. I inexplicably use my own name despite the option of anonymity being available, presumably so everyone can see what a complete fucking pancake I am.

    I hope this goes some way towards excusing the utterly pathetic nature of my previous comments, and also explaining why I used my own name when any sane person (with genitals) would have just used any old rubbish.

    I would understand completely if you or anyone you knew felt like sending me hate mail. God knows, after people are subjected to what I laughingly refer to as ‘experimental performance’ (a euphemism for masturbation if ever I heard one), I get van loads of the stuff. I’m sure you can ascertain my postal address in a couple of simple steps by looking at the information transmitted when I posted my ill thought out and juvenile bullshit comments on your site, since I have no understanding whatsoever of the internet, IP addresses or HTTP headers, or indeed why people seem to hate me so much. Baffling.

    And on that note, I’m off to call an Oxford professor a dickhead. That’ll teach him to have an understanding of stuff I don’t get. And to live outside of Sheffield, which I am told is an evil and ungodly sin.


    Paul Bellender.

    (BsC, CnT, DckHD)

    Posted by Paul Allender | July 23, 2009, 1:45 am

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