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 January 19, 2014.   0 Comment
The pseudonymous British street artist Banksy is in New York for the month of October with a project he’s calling “Better Out Than In,” after Paul Cézanne’s pronouncement that “all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside.” His stencils and graffiti epigrams are popping up across the city, creating a sort of scavenger hunt for admirers.

 New Yorkers are rising to the occasion, giving Banksy a characteristic, if not uniformly warm, welcome. His first piece, a stencil of a street urchin reaching for a can of spray paint on a sign reading “Graffiti Is a Crime,” was defaced within hoursand painted over the next day. It wasn’t the first time a Banksy original met a cruel, indifferent fate, but the pace of alteration was unusually rapid.


Last Monday, a three-dimension red-heart balloon speckled with adhesive bandages appeared on a wall in Red Hook. Also that day, while Banksy fans looked on, a vandal cloaked the balloon in a fresh coat of spray paint, appending his tag, “Omar NYC,” to the modified piece. The crowd booed.

A stencil in East New York of a beaver seemingly perched on a fallen “No Parking” sign elicited the most entrepreneurial responses. Two men from the Brooklyn neighborhood covered it up with cardboard and charged $20 to anyone who wanted to take a photograph. In a video posted to YouTube on Thursday, one of the men explained, “Y’all wouldn’t come here, if this wasn’t here,” adding, “If you wanna take a picture, it’s gonna cost something.”

Inspired, perhaps, by shutdown-happy Republicans in Congress, he threatened to destroy the artwork if he didn’t get his way: “I could break this and go and keep doing what I’ve been doing all day,” he said, “but before we ruin it, we’d rather leave it so y’all can come and take a picture.” After the display of capitalistic innovation, someone tried to remove the stencil with a hammer and chisel.

In fairness to the city’s reputation, those intent on desecrating or profiting from Banksy’s graffiti are in the minority. New York has a few clowns with street-corner business plans, but also many enthusiasts racing around the boroughs, eager to get a look at a beloved artist’s work — while it lasts. Welcome to New York, Banksy!

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