One problem thats come out of the rise in the popularity of street art is that work that used to be left to survive on its own (either ending up being removed by the property owner or gone over with other graffiti – both of which are fine by me) is now having to die a slow, undignified death above someones fireplace. Street art is meant to be on the streets (the clues in the title). ‘Street art’ removed from the streets becomes, well, just ‘art’. I’m not talking about copies of street pieces that are meant to be sold and displayed. I’m talking about the peel off carefully, chisel out of the wall brigade. Case in point this was the scene in Brick Lane this afternoon. Walking around a corner I stumbled on this not too stereotypical street art ‘liberator’ carefully peeling off a fresh paste up. She then proceeded to roll it up, stuff it in a bag and then made her (slightly shaky) getaway in the direction of the 24 hour bagel shop (the best place in London for all your Bagel needs). It’s not exactly a crime but it would be much better if it was left there for others to enjoy.
A bit later on in the afternoon and against my better judgement I had a look at the totally unofficial show of ‘reclaimed’ Banksy work in Covent Garden. Walking up to it and even walking around it you’d be hard pressed to determine that Banksy would have had nothing to do with this show (his verification agency ‘Pest Control’ famously always refuses to authenticate street pieces). Most of the work on display has been lifted off the streets over recent years. Large sections of walls, doors and plaster are amongst the pieces that make up the exhibition. It’s a very soulless look at some of his work with a totally different vibe to the Bristol exhibition. In fact it has no vibe at all. Simple labels next to pieces tell you nothing, not even the city the works have been taken from. Banksy’s street pieces are all about the context of where they are placed and in this empty whitewashed hall they lose an important part of their reasons for existence. I actually thought that Andipa Modern’s recent Banksy show was better than this – it was an unofficial show too but at least the work they had on display at the last one was pretty much exclusively never placed on the street. That’s not meant as an endorsement of Andipa in case you were wondering.
This sign summed up the whole seedy enterprise for me…my advice is don’t buy anything here – it’ll only encourage them to do it again. Don’t bother with this sorry show and get yourself down to Bristol if you can….