Graffiti artist Banksy: Jerk or genius?

Graffiti artist Banksy: Jerk or genius?

UK - Secretive British street artist Banksy ended his self-announced month-long residency in New York last month with a final piece of graffiti, a US$615,000 (S$764,000) painting donated to charity, and a debate: Is he a jerk or a genius?

Banksy, who created a new picture, video or prank every day last month, somewhere in the city, spent his last day like thousands of graffiti artists before him: He tagged a building near a highway with his name in giant bubble letters.

The twist was that these letters were actual bubbles: balloon-like inflatables stuck to a wall near the Long Island Expressway in Queens.

Banksy, who refuses to reveal his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England.

During his 31 days in New York, the artist put pictures of his work on, with clues to locations.

That spawned a treasure hunt by fans who shared locations via social media, then swarmed to see them.

But by the time Banksy was done, New Yorkers were divided in their opinions. Some tweeted "Go home, Banksy!" Others declared their admiration.

The turning point for many was an essay he wrote criticising the building replacing the World Trade Center. Banksy called the new design "vanilla... something they would build in Canada", and added: "It so clearly proclaims the terrorists won."

He offered the essay to The New York Times. The paper wouldn't print it so he posted it on his website, reported AP.

"The terrorists won" comment upset many New Yorkers, including Mr Brian Major, 51.

"Enough!" he said. "Who is this guy? Everybody's got a right to an opinion, but what gives him any kind of credibility in New York? Shut up, Banksy! Go home!"

But Mr Sean Lynch, 25, thinks Banksy is "one of the more captivating artists of our generation".

He said it was magical visiting Banksy sites around the city and hearing conversations about art that the works inspired, with "people of all different walks and cultures sharing opinions, sharing stories... The walls started to talk to them, in a way".

New York's outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, when asked about Banksy, called graffiti "a sign of decay and loss of control".

Is he any good? 

Said Ms Radhika Subramaniam, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in Manhattan: "There's plenty of wit in what he does, as well as some thoroughly ordinary, sometimes pleasant, sometimes banal, but sometimes sweet things. But he's also not a naïf in the art world.

"After all, who would care if you or I were to set up a blog and enact a residency like this?

"It's only because he's able to marshal this kind of PR and marketing that... catapults his residency to another level and elicits these polarised points of view."

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