By titling his piece “The Great Banksy Deception” he’s arguing that street-artist Banksy is deceiving people—that Banksy misrepresents himself and his art. Hanrahan’s evidence is that Banksy’s street art is being sold as a luxury commodity to rich and famous people, that he paints over other people’s art, that he steals imagery from other artists. He concludes that this street artist is a sellout. That he’s no longer authentic.
But is Banksy deceiving people or is he mercilessly exploring and expanding a system, the way artists are supposed to?
What artist doesn’t appropriate from other artists?
What artist doesn’t refuse an existing set of rules, or at least seek to push those rules someplace new?
Banksy – No Ball Games
I honestly have few opinions about Banksy. I liked his movie, I like the isolated projects I’ve seen and I like his sense of scale, but I don’t go to London and so have very little sense of what it’s like to live with the guy. What I have opinions about is Hanrahan’s argument. If borrowing from other artists and pushing past the boundaries of a medium, audience, format or genre makes an artist a fraud, then modern art is the grandest deception story of all. Artists aren’t supposed to stay within the lines, worry about credibility or authenticity or otherwise conform to anyone’s expectations! All artists and all art is in some ways fraudulent! Art lies and manipulates. It changes the rules. This is its only real power.
Hanrahan, by arguing that Banksy isn’t playing by street art rules, is arguing against the only thing art really has to offer. Art can offer its lawlessness. Its illogical mess. Its deep unfairness. It can’t make sense for you.