Here at Don’t Panic we’ve noticed a few ruffled feathers over the recent Street Summer competition, mainly surrounding the entry from the famous, or infamous depending on your taste, Tox. There’s been some pretty heavy debate going on, some productive and some not so much, so we thought we’d give our tuppence worth.
Tox wasn’t intentionally overlooked because he is in prison, he just didn’t win.
Here at Don’t Panic, we have a history of supporting street and graffiti artists, even ones who have received jail time, but let us just get some facts straight. Although Tox received the most votes – quite a hefty number of votes it was too - it didn't mean he was automatically the winner. The competition rules stated that getting the most votes got you into the top ten, and from these top ten a winner was picked by a voting panel, of which the artist SER was only one, as he has explained (and while he may have voted for Tox, he was outvoted by the panel).
While we appreciate his popularity and the impact his work has had on the graffiti community, it unfortunately wasn't right for the brief this time. The winning entry won fair and square, having met the brief – to create an original piece that promoted Channel 4’s Street Summer. Tox’s was not an original piece, and more importantly, at time of going to press, we still haven’t actually managed to clarify that it was him that entered the competition.
Although Tox received the most votes – quite a hefty number of votes it was too - it didn't mean he was automatically the winner.
Can we use a piece if we can’t verify that the artist knows it has been entered? Does ownership come into it? After all, if you put a photo on the internet, it’s anyone’s property. Does the same go for graffiti and street artists; once your work is on a public wall, does it belong to the public? Particularly work as prolific as Tox’s; someone would have to have been walking around with their eyes closed since 2002 to not notice the tag that has essentially become part of the London landscape.
Some people call it an eyesore; but a lot of people out there call it art. Eine stated in Tox’s trial that his work was “incredibly basic” and lacking “skill, flair or unique style”. Many of you seem to disagree, and it cannot be denied that Tox’s work is something important in the history of graffiti and street art in London – he was one of the first to effectively brand an entire city. So where is the line between graffiti and street art and vandalism – as with any art form, it can’t be judged on whether certain people like it or dislike it. After all, my Grandad would happily paint over Banksy’s work himself if it wasn’t covered in Perspex (and he could get up a ladder). But while Banksy is selling his work for obscene amounts of money and being lauded as a politically important artist the world over, Tox has just slapped with an undeniably harsh sentence of 27 months – presumably a message to all writers out there from the courts telling them it’s not acceptable in the eyes of the law. So why is it OK for Banksy?
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