Banksy: An Acceptable Level of Threat?

Some love him, some hate him and town council’s want to write him off as a vandal, but his new book shows Banksy at his best.
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Some love him, some hate him and town council’s want to write him off as a vandal, but his new book shows Banksy at his best.

It’s been well over a decade now since Banksy entered popular consciousness. In that time he’s been heralded as a genius, condemned as a guffhead, accused of plagiarism, vandalism and being naïve and pretentious. He’s opened successful gallery shows, made a film and been involved in a war with supporters of rival graffiti artist Robbo. While his identity (sort of) remains unclear, what is it’s his work is now the most identifiable street art in the world and his style has influenced many parts of our culture.

Just in the 7 years since the best-selling book Wall and Piece compiled his work in one place, Banksy has created powerful works in political hotspots such as Palestine and post-Katrina New Orleans as well basic piss-taking pieces in Los Angeles and New York. His work in London continues and many pieces are now protected by local councils bending to pressure from a determined-to-be-entertained public. Many of these more recent works are available in a new anthology; Banksy – You Are An Acceptable Level Of Threat And If You Were Not You Would Know About. It is published in July by Carpet Bombing Culture and features 200-odd extraordinary examples of his capitalist-baiting, government-condemning, hypocrite-exposing oeuvre.

Despite his success, some people seem to really hate Banksy. Not with the perfectly understandable hatred we all feel for Coldplay or James Corden but with a feverish, almost illogical spite. A few years ago the generally spot-on Charlie Brooker called Banksy a ‘guffhead of massive proportions’ and said that his work ‘looks dazzlingly clever to idiots’. It was a neatly damning line but Brooker has since featured in two series of the generally execrable 10 O’Clock Live and found himself relying on sycophantic laughs from just such idiots. Maybe now he will see that an artist isn’t responsible for the reaction of his audience, or its idiot quotient.

Despite his success, some people seem to really hate Banksy. Not with the perfectly understandable hatred we all feel for Coldplay or James Corden but with a feverish, almost illogical spite.

Banksy’s stuff may be over simplistic and occasionally naïve but much of it is fucking brilliant – inventive, witty, thought-provoking, contentious, cheeky, insightful, big and clever. It’s also thrilling when you happen upon one in situ, particularly the really ephemeral examples. Many of us have seen his work around London but I saw the dummy lost child clutching balloons (featured in the book) which rose into the sky at Glastonbury a couple of years back and, though none of us there knew for sure it was Banksy, it caused much hilarity amongst the assembled addled. Graffiti naturally has a limited lifespan but an artwork that has tens of thousands of people pissing themselves while it disappears into the stratosphere after existing for just a couple of minutes is a joy to behold.

You don’t really need me to tell you to buy this book; those who like Banksy will do so, those who don’t won’t and plenty more who profess to dislike him will pick up a copy in Waterstones and staunch a giggle as they leaf through it. It’s hard not to admire someone who does something so well doing something so well.

Banksy – You Are An Acceptable Level Of Threat And If You Were Not You Would Know About is published in July by Carpet Bombing Culture

If you liked this, try these…

As One Banksy Dies, Another Is Born

King Robbo Exclusive Interview: My Graffiti War With Banksy

Introducing Israel’s Notorious Street Art Collective: Broken Fingaz Crew

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