The anonymous and popular British street artist, known by the pseudonym, Banksy has created a website titled, “Better Out Than In,” where he has announced his residency in New York City for the month of October. According to the website, he “will be attempting to host an entire show on the streets of New York.” This attempt may prove near impossible for the graffiti artist to achieve since New York’s own street artists and taggers have little reverence in leaving Banksy’s work in its original state.
On the first of October, a photo was up-loaded to the site titled “The street is in play.” The image depicts a young boy standing on his friend’s back reaching for a can of spray-paint stenciled onto a sign that read, “Graffiti is a crime.” With-in hours of the image’s release on his website the actual image on Allen street in New York’s lower East Side had been modified, perhaps ruined by other taggers who painted over the stencil with a layer of white-paint. Not long after, someone else added in blue ink “Sweaty palms made me lose the love of my life!”
The next day another photo was released with the title, “Westside.” The photo sent hundreds of fans on a scavenger hunt that led to a large white spray-painted text underneath the Highline on west 25th street. The text read “This is my New York accent,” underneath in smaller print, ” . . . normally I write like this.” And much like the work on Allen street, this graffiti also had been altered with-in hours of the image’s release by other taggers interested in leaving their own mark either side-by-side or even on top of the artist’s work.
The third image released on the artist’s website was a dog lifting his leg to pee on a fire hydrant with a small cartoon bubble that read, “You complete me.” Shortly after it’s release the image was altered by another tagger who added his name to a collar and leash painted on-top of the dog’s black silhouette.
While some have argued the alteration by other taggers and graffiti artists is a form of conversation, one New Yorker sees it as a spiteful act of vandalism to a well-known artist whose work he considers more inspired. He has vowed to act as a curator/historian over the next month, with the sole mission to preserve Banksy’s work from other would-be vandals. Like Banksy, the man dressed in all-black, except for a bright orange utility vest and yellow hard-hat wished to remain anonymous, but claimed to me a member of the Banksy Restoration Society. A group that takes its vow to maintain and restore any Banksy work that has been altered or defiled by other street artists very seriously.
Moving in front of the vandalized graffiti and a group of spectators who were busy snapping photos with mobile phones, he quickly removed a black can of spray paint from a plastic bag and crotched down and painted over the tag that read, “Raffzilla.” As soon as he had finished he took a bow and asked a near-by woman if she wouldn’t mind taking a photo of him. He beamed with pride as he posed next to his handiwork – a dog in the act of urinating on a fire hydrant; a touched-up version of Banksy’s original form.
Here is his story:
Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing here?
Well, I felt like, you know, the disrespect of Banksy as a valid street artist is kind of unfounded because he’s giving back. I walk down this block every single day to work. I want to see that without somebody’s tag on it. You know, I love graffiti and everybody does it, but hey this is Banksy we’re talking about. This piece . . . if somebody removed the wall . . . it’s probably worth $250,000. So, let’s enjoy it as New Yorkers. Let’s get together and let’s make sure it stays clean. So, that’s what we’re doing here.
Are you apart of a team or a group?
Yes, its called Banksy Restoration – we’re keeping the streets clean on anything on Banksy. I don’t care about anything else.
Do you have a blog or a website?
No, we don’t. We are just as anonymous as Banksy. I just personally wanted to take a hand in making sure everything stays clean on Bansky. So, I’m going to make sure for the next 30 days that this ship runs untouched.
Do you consider yourself a street artist?
I’d say we’re curators, historians. You know, we are making sure that my son can walk and see this without anyone else tagging on it. Tag around it. Beautify the surroundings. But why deface it? It makes no sense to me. It actually really enrages me in way that I had to do this.
Do you think Banksy would condone?
Banksy doesn’t care. So, I do.