In the latest twist in the career of British “art prankster” Banksy, a wall on which he painted another one of his one-note eye-rollers has brought £208,100 at auction, or around $400,000. The wall, on the side of a building on Portobello Road in London, will have to be removed to be enjoyed at home by the buyer, and the cost of removal is not included in the price. The artwork depicts a stereotypical artist, with bow-tie and paint palette, putting the finishing touches with a brush on a sloppy “Banksy” tag that has clearly been spray-painted. Har, har: it sure pokes fun at all those people who take art seriously!
The artist’s recent work on Israel’s West Bank barrier raised eyebrows and caused controversy, but lost in the debate was the plain fact that it features the same old Highlights magazine-level groan-worthy clichés. Most are trompe l’oeil “breaks” or “windows” in the wall, and boy, everybody loves trompe l’oeil: it’s like a magical illusion! Plus, um, it really brings to the foreground the true “wallness” of the wall itself. Ugh. The auction of the London painting shows that the Banksy phenomenon is just even more of an example of the emptiness of celebrity culture than it supposedly parodies, and considering there are about 100 stunning examples of mind-bendingly great graffiti within a block of my house, shockingly-colored phrases twisted into illegible psychedelic shapes, nearly vibrating with life, it seems like any one of these anonymous artists would be more deserving of some of that $400,000. But clearly I’m not the target audience.