The English police removed a confronting piece of graffity by Banksy and consequently reached newspapers around the world. They thought the picture of pigeons bullying a green immigrated bird was offending. The decision to remove the picture raises questions about how offensive the picture was and how immigration is handled by English authorities. But what I am most intrigued by from a perspective of art;
Who are the criminals: Banksy the painter of public property or the English authorities for removing valuable art?
If you haven’t heard, Banksy is a graffity master who places his pictures around England. They often put emphasis on sensitive topics, making people question things they think is normal. He places them on public places, from walls to subway stations and even zoos. Unannounced, of course, because placing graffity is a crime by law. After placing a piece he often puts a photograph on his website www.banksy.co.uk.
Does the idea that Banksy’s graffity is good, really good, make it less criminal than other graffity? I catch myself calling Banksy an artist and a painter (see earlier in this article) and I tend to view his work as art. I wonder why? Not because it is beautiful, it is not, and not because it makes people think. For me, it is the combination of really bright ideas, a recognizable style and super skilled depictions that makes Banksy’s graffity art. But is does not change the law: it is a crime. Nevertheless, galeries and museums have taken Banksy’s work on view and by doing so they have taken away its criminal origin.
Unfortunately the now famous piece of the birds is lost forever for gallery placement. All that´s left are photos. But if Banksy´s graffity is art and English authorities destroy it, why is this not a crime? By law, destroying a piece of art is only considered a crime if it is damaging a person or organisation; the piece must be owned by someone. Since Banksy places its pieces in public places owned by the state, unordered, and Banksy can’t claim it without being prosecuted, the art is ownerless. Or is it? Isn’t art owned by society to appreciate and learn from? If we take out law as a player, the English police has damaged society.
Nevertheless, the removal caught the world’s attention, opening the artwork to a larger crowd than it would otherwise have. They helped make the world think about immigration, the value of art and the meaning of Banksy. But a piece of art on photo is not the same as the real deal. I guess my verdict would be that both Banksy and the English authorities are criminals in their own ways. I think, however, removing art and denying its message is far more damaging to society than placing a confronting piece of art in a public place…