Less than a month ago, many in New York City considered the multitude of multicolored scribbles that dot thousands of buildings across the city to be nothing more than a nuisance. As Banksy’s month-long residency in the Big Apple draws to a close, the line between graffiti and art has blurred, with fans from nearly every socioeconomic group searching for the work of the famous street artist.
But not everyone in New York welcomed Banksy with open arms. First it was Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD, who made it their mission to track Banksy down. Aside from a brief hiatus, this did little to alter Banksy’s plans as his cult-like following grew. Then, outraged residents who disagreed with the social commentary found in much of Banksy’s work began to voice their opinion. With no signs of slowing, Banksy, and his fans, marched on. Now, mere hours from the end of Banksy’s visit, the artist, his fans and his detractors are all able to reflect on the past month, and it seems as if few are going to shy away from voicing their frustration.
Let’s start with Banksy’s bottled-up anger. Although we know little about Banksy, his work usually reflects a calm and collected persona, albeit one who thoroughly enjoys raging against the machine. This time around, however, we’ve seen him go from playful and thoughtful to angry and aggressive, perhaps due to his proximity to what he dubbed the “disaster” – One World Trade Center.
“It would be easy to view One World Trade Centre as a betrayal of everyone who lost their lives on September 11th, because it so clearly proclaims the terrorists won,” wrote Banksy in an op-ed piece that he says was rejected by The New York Times. While the building has drawn architectural criticism, these brash statements understandably upset some New Yorkers; yet, on the same day his op-ed was slated to be published, Banksy’s graffiti message in Greenpoint, Brooklyn stating “This site contains blocked messages” drew the same large crowds as his earlier pieces. His previous day’s work, an ‘Alternative New York bumper slogan’ reading “The grumpier you are, the more assholes you meet…” also elicited a mixed response, but fans flocked to the scene nonetheless.
The next, and arguably most disgruntled party is those who have not bought into the Banksy mania that swept New York during October. Take Diane Adzema for example. Last weekend, Banksy got into the holiday spirit and turned the corner of Houston and Elizabeth Streets in Bowery into a nightmare by placing a Grim Reaper in the driver’s seat of a bumper car. Just as with every other one of Banksy’s installations, fans flocked to the scene, all jockeying for position in order to take the best photo on their smartphone. According to Adzema, some went so far as to climb on top of her nearby SUV for a better view, crushing the roof of the vehicle in the process.
“I just want Banksy to replace it – or to give me the cash to replace it,” Adzema told The New York Post. She is not the only one to be upset by one of Banksy’s pieces – numerous residents of the Bronx, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., were angered by Banksy’s “Ghetto 4 Life” installation, located in the South Bronx, which many believed reinforced negative stereotypes about the area. Still, many lauded Banksy’s latest work and flocked to the scene to snap pictures and get a firsthand look at his legendary graffiti. Once again, the line had been draw.
So where are Banksy’s fans left in the mix? Well, they’re mostly sad that the beloved street artist is leaving, but now that Banksy has picked up his ‘New York accent’ maybe he’ll make a return visit soon.