In an effort to be “cultural,” I spent an afternoon last weekend feigning interest in a collection of 19th-century French paintings in a room packed with tourists at a museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Internally, I was bemoaning the $12 I'd spent on a cab ride to get there from the Upper West Side and the additional $12 I spent to get in.
Now, I’m even more certain I should have skipped the museum. According to the New York Times, an original Banksy has made a surprise debut in New York City! The spray-painted image features a boy standing on the back of another boy. He is grabbing a can of spray paint from a sign that reads "Graffiti is a crime." This was the first image of Banksy's newly announced Street Art Show, and was spotted on 18 Allen Street at the border of the Lower East Side and Chinatown.
The famous English graffiti artist announced on his website yesterday that he was hosting a 'show' for the month of October on the streets of New York City called Better Out Than In. His first work of art has already been vandalized, but such is the danger of having a painting outside a museum. The wall now looks like this:
Though some reporters and social media bloggers have expressed astonishment at Banksy’s sudden appearance, his choice of New York for his latest pop-up show is unsurprising. New York City’s street art scene has been thriving in recent years. Street art is not bound by the same rules as that seen in art museums or galleries. There are no lines, no mandatory bag-check or coat-check, no need to talk softly, and, best of all, no tickets! For artists, the city is both canvas and gallery.
An art blogger from The Guardian thinks that Banksy is “banal and untalented,” but the tradition of street art goes far beyond pesky vandals trying to cause trouble. Street art, which first took root in New York City in the 1970s, can be seen as an act of rebellion against authority. In expressing their creativity outside the confines of the walls of a gallery, street artists not only bring color and life to our streets, but also make us question social, cultural, and political norms. Like the many other graffiti artists—such as Hanksy—who have left their mark on New York City’s urban landscape, Banksy’s street art serves as social and political commentary that explores anti-war and anti-establishment themes.
It’s fitting that Banksy’s show is called Better Out Than In as the weather has been surprisingly beautiful here in New York this fall. Don't make my mistake. Spend your museum entrance fee on a Citi Bike and go find more free artwork while the weather's still good. Hopefully the art will outlast the warm days.