Jeffrey Deitch Has Sunk So Low He’s Curating for Property Developers on Coney Island (artnet news)

By Brian Boucher, Wednesday, April 29, 2015 original article here.


New York dealer-impresario Jeffrey Deitch is co-curating a street art show in Coney Island this summer with Joseph Sitt, the head of real estate developers Thor Equities, whom a Huffington Post blogger once dubbed “Satan’s real estate division.”

The show includes Crash, Lee Quinones, Futura, Kenny Scharf, Miss Van, Lady Pink, Swoon, and Icy Signs. It will be accompanied by the debut of Smorgasburg Coney Island, with 12 “diverse” food vendors. Oh, and there will be music, too. (See Miley Cyrus Takes Art Basel, Thanks to Jeffrey Deitch).

A longtime devotee of street art, Deitch organized the crowd-pleasing 2011 exhibition “Art in the Streets” during his ill-fated tenure at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. While it drew crowds, it wasn’t free of controversy. For one thing, critics moaned that Deitch was creating a circus, fixated on the income from the 200,000 visitors who flocked to the show at the expense of scholarly shows.

But you remember all that, and hey, art is about entertainment, right?

Yet worse was the censoring of a mural by Blu, commissioned for that show, that depicted a panorama of coffins draped in dollar bills. The museum said that since its neighbors include a VA hospital and a monument to Japanese-American soldiers in World War II, the work was “inappropriate,” and whitewashed the painting.

Thor Equities may not be the best company to share a spotlight with, either.

Remember Astroland, the beloved Coney Island amusement park that shut down in 2008 after offering roller coaster rides since 1962? Thor is the new owner of that property. Former owner Carol Albert told the New York Times they forced her out. Thor has reportedly invested more than $100 million in buying up Coney Island property.

Thor hasn’t made friends out of SoHo residents Michele Varian and Brad Roberts, either. They say the company, which, according to the New York Post, owns more than 20 properties in that neighborhood, has made their lives hell by tearing apart the units above and below their rent-regulated loft. A worker in hazmat gear once busted right through their floor, tearing a 5-foot hole.

And it gets better: “Ms. Varian showed this reporter work permits that Thor had filed with the city, indicating that the building was unoccupied and had no rent-stabilized tenants,” writes the Times.


It all makes sense. The supposedly irrepressible, antiauthoritarian spirit of graffiti is harnessed to create a Disney-fied version of a bygone era, when Coney Island was dirty but real. It’s all brought to you by the museum director who drove away all the artist-trustees at LA MOCA, who was shocked—shocked!—that running a museum involved so much fundraising, and who is on the side of Klaus Biesenbach (see Jeffrey Deitch Claims Art World Persecution and Defends Klaus Biesenbach).

We won’t see Blu in this show, I’m guessing.

Banksy Mobile Lovers Get $670,000 Price Tag from Antiques Roadshow (artnet news)

by Eileen Kinsella, Monday, June 2, 2014 original article here.


Banksy, Mobile Lovers (2014). Courtesy Vision Invisible/Flickr.

A Banksy mural with an interesting back story could bring in over a half million dollars for a British boys club in dire need of funds.

Mobile Lovers, a work showing a man and woman seemingly locked in a passionate embrace, but actually gazing distractedly over each other’s shoulders at their cell phones, their faces lit from the glow, was valued at $670,000 (£400,000) on the Antiques Roadshow TV program. The work was brought for appraisal by a Bristol-based youth club known as the Broad Plain Boys’ Club. An added bonus, the club has a letter from the mysterious street artist himself, stating that the club can keep the work.

In April, shortly after Mobile Lovers was spotted on a wall in Bristol, it was taken down by the youth club with a crowbar. The club left a note indicating that they removed it “to prevent vandalism or damage being done,” as artnet News reported. The move was controversial, sparking some criticism that it was holding the work “hostage.” According to their note, “You are free to come and view, but a small donation will be asked for you.” The letter from Banksy, and confirmation from Banksy’s publicist Jo Brooks has seemingly quashed any question of ownership between the city of Bristol, where the artist resides, and the youth club.

In the Daily Mail, club leader Dennis Stinchcombe said he had received offers as high as $1.7 million (£1 million) for the work since the Banksy confirmation. Stinchombe said he was considering selling the work at auction but was concerned about “choosing an appropriate auctioneer and one which is respectful of the work.” His hope is that any sale proceeds “settle our finances and secure our future over the next few years at least.”

Stinchcombe had hoped to keep a low profile when he brought it to the BBC program being filmed at Ashton Court in Bristol last Thursday (May 29), but the large, distinctive work was spotted almost immediately, and crowds descended.

Banksy’s auction record is for Keep It Spotless (2007), (a playful jab at Damien Hirst), made of household gloss and spray paint on canvas, that sold for $1.9 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2008, soaring above expectations of $250,000–350,000. According to the artnet database, roughly 1,165 Banksy works have appeared at auction to date.


Bristol Museum Will Display Stolen Banksy Confiscated by City Hall (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Thursday, April 17, 2014 original article here.


Banksy, Mobile Lovers (2014), in Bristol. Photo via

The municipal government in Bristol has stepped in to resolve the controversy over secretive street artist Banksy‘s latest work, which will now be displayed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, reports the BBC.

Shortly after the painting of a couple embracing, their faces alight with the glow of their mobile devices, was announced on Banksy’s website, an opportunistic local youth club leader, Dennis Stinchcombe, pried the plywood artwork from the doorway where it had been installed.

Where the original stood, a smaller copy was displayed, along with a note reading:

This is where Banksy’s work did stand. It has been removed as it was at risk of being damaged or vandalized or taken away. As some of you may be aware, the Riverside Youth Project which stands to your left is under major threat of being shut down due to funding. You can view the art work in our building where it is being kept safe from harm! We will ask a small donation to be contributed if you do wish to view. Please do not hesitate to pop in!

Reactions to Stinchcombe’s theft have ranged from death threats to an offer of $1.7 million for the painting, according to the BBC. The Broad Plain Boys’ Club claims to need over $200,000 to continue operations, and had initially hoped to raise $170,000 from the proceeds of a sale.

Yesterday, Bristol mayor George Ferguson stepped in, urging the club to turn the painting over to police. “As far as we know it belongs to the city,” he told the BBC. “What’s important is that it’s available for everybody to see.” Reluctantly, the club acquiesced.

Now, it is unclear how much the struggling organization will benefit from the artwork, which is scheduled to go on view tomorrow, “once,” per the museum’s Twitter feed, “we have cleaned the spiders, wasp nest and dirt off.”

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery promises to put up a donation box next to the work, and the mayor is encouraging Banksy to offer a limited-edition print of the work, with the proceeds to go to the club.

Stinchcombe, for his part, is heartbroken, asking “How often do you see a million pounds walk out of your club?”



see updates about Mobile Lovers here.


Why Banksy Is (Probably) a Woman (Citylab)


by Kriston Capps  Nov 4, 2014 original article here.


Andrew Winning/Reuters


Banksy Does New York, a new documentary airing on HBO on Nov. 17, opens on a bunch of scofflaws trying to jack an inflatable word balloon reading “Banksy!” from the side of a low-rise building in Queens. These hooligans weren’t Banksy. Neither were the police officers who took possession of the piece after the failed heist and denied that it was art. Nor in all likelihood was the silver-haired man who sold $420 worth of Banksy prints for $60 a pop in Central Park, or the drivers who slowly trawled New York streets in trucks tricked out with Banksy’s sculpture, or the accordionist accompanying one of Banksy’s installations. While the film shares a lot of insights about street art, media sensationalism, viral phenomena, and the people who make Banksy possible, it doesn’t cast a light on who Banksy is or what she looks like.

“Banksy hunters” who tracked the elusive artist over the course of her month-long residency last October never caught a glimpse of her—at least, so far as anyone can be sure. Reporters such as Beth Stebner (New York Daily News) and Keegan Hamilton (then with The Village Voice) didn’t find her. That her identity is still secret is an achievement, given her notoriety and marketability.

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York.

All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

A scene from Banksy Does New York depicts vandals attempting to make off with the last piece from Banksy’s 31-day residency in New York. (HBO)


This hypothesis is not completely unfounded. Eleven years ago, The Guardian‘s Simon Hattenstone met Banksy in a pub in Bristol. The reporter had his own concerns about identifying Banksy, even early into the artist’s career. (“Nobody here seems to know what he looks like. But they all know him. That is, they know of him. That is, if he is a he.”) Hesitations notwithstanding, Hattenstone was convinced: He wrote that the person he interviewed “looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.” Your standard bloke.

In the 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop, another documentary about street art, Banksy appears as an anonymous figure whose voice is disguised, but who is plainly a man. So that would seem to put the question to rest. Further to the point, the street artist Shepard Fairey referred to Banksy as “he” and “him” throughout an interview with Brian Lehrer the same year. Fairey would be in a position to know, presumably: He’s the closest thing Banksy has to a colleague. Fairey says that Banksy insists on anonymity, in part, to manage his image in the press. “He controls the way his message is put out very carefully,” Fairey says in the interview.

Yet these pieces of evidence confuse rather than clarify the issue. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a classic piece of misdirection. Over the course of the movie, the film’s would-be documentarian, Thierry Guetta, is exposed as a poor filmmaker. Partway through, Banksy takes over the production, turning it into a documentary about the documentarian instead. To complete the meta romp, Guetta, working under the nomme de rue Mr. Brainwash, proceeds to rips off Banksy’s style. All of this means that Fairey, Banksy’s co-conspirator in Banksy’s film, is an unreliable narrator.

Another piece from Banksy’s New York residency. (HBO)


During the very first interview that Banksy gave to The Guardian, another figure was present (“Steve,” Banksy’s agent). Another figure is always present, says Canadian media artist Chris Healey, who has maintained since 2010 that Banksy is a team of seven artists led by a woman—potentially the same woman with long blonde hair who appears in scenes depicting Banksy’s alleged studio in Exit Through the Gift Shop. Although Healey won’t identify the direct source for his highly specific claim, it’s at least as believable as the suggestion that Banksy is and always has been a single man.

“Since there is so much misdirection and jamming of societal norms with Banksy’s work, as well as the oft-repeated claim no one notices Banksy, then it makes sense,” Healey tells me. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”

A Banksy outside the Hustler Club in Hells Kitchen. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)


Part of what makes Banksy’s work so popular is that it doesn’t operate much like street art at all. Think about Invader or Fairey, artists who appear in Exit Through the Gift Shop: Invader’s 8-bit career began with a single “Space Invaders” icon that the artist reiterated endlessly. Fairey’s work started with a stencil of Andre the Giant prefaced by the word “Obey,” again, repeated over and over. While they’re both more like media moguls than graffiti writers today, Fairey and Invader started with the same strategy: to project themselves into public spaces by broadcasting themselves all over it.

That ambition to control a public space through this sort of redundant branding, to make the street your own, is a masculine one—and it’s shared by the overwhelming majority of street artists. In the theater of the public square, graffiti is cousin to cat-calling—which Slate’s Dee Locket smartly explains as the constant effort by men to “create the illusion of dominance in shared public spaces,” specifically by claiming women’s private spaces as their own. Naturally, street art is at best delightful and at worst a nuisance, whereas cat-calling is an intolerable social problem and a legitimate threat to women’s safety. So any comparison between the two only goes so far.

Still from a video graphic mapping Banksy’s October 2013 New York residency. (HBO)


Banksy does Brooklyn. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)


Compared to the highly visible work of Invader or Fairey or dozens of other high-profile street artists, Banksy’s work is different. Girls and women figure into Banksy’s stenciled figures, for starters, something that isn’t true of 99 percent of street art. Banksy’s work has always done more than project “Banksy” ad nauseum. (In fact, a “handling service” called Pest Control exists to authenticate Banksy’s protean projects.) Banksy’s graffiti understands and predicates a relationship between the viewer and the street, something that graffiti that merely shouts the artist’s name or icon over and over (and over and over) doesn’t do.

Maybe it gives Banksy too much credit to say that her work shows a greater capacity for imagining being in someone else’s shoes. (It’s true of her themes of social justice, but it’s also formally true in the way her work anticipates interaction with the viewer.) Andrew Russeth, at the time the editor for Gallerist, the New York Observer‘s art site, finds Banksy’s work lacking in the Banksy Does New York documentary, calling it “art that hits you over the head with its message” and “worst-common-denominator art”—although he had kinder things to say about Sirens of the Lambs, a truck filled with squeaking plush animals. The fine-art world may not love Banksy, but Banksy plainly thinks of herself as part of that world: The New York residency drew on countless tropes from the art world, complete with a wry audio tour guide.

Banksy’s Everything but the Kitchen Sphinx in Queens was dismantled and removed by the owner of an auto-glass shop. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)


“The real show he is running is on the Internet,” says one savvy observer in the documentary. “It’s like the Internet is almost his graffiti wall.” Close: Her graffiti wall. The savvy manipulation of media to make viral art, to make art about virality, makes Banksy an innovator breaking out of a familiar form. In contemporary art today, that’s a feminine trait: The best selfie artists are women, for example. So are the artists leading the Post-Internet art world.

Given how many men rip off Banksy in Banksy Does New York—watch the film to meet the utterly vampiric art dealer Stephan Keszler, if for no other reason—it’s only fitting to presume that Banksy is a woman. Women experience the street in a different way than men do. Women experience the art world in a different way than men do. Love her or hate her, Banksy is putting herself at the intersection of the street and the art world. Why would anyone expect that position to be occupied by a man?

Works by Banksy titled Kate Moss 2005 appear in a 2009 auction. (Andrew Parsons/Reuters)


What most street art looks like. (HBO)




Tourists buy $31K Banksy art for just $60 each (New York Post)

Now this was priceless.

British graffiti artist Banksy, whose socially conscious works have commanded six figures at auction, made his biggest statement yet over the weekend — offering his signed original spray paintings for $60 apiece at a streetside stall outside Central Park.

But the deal of a lifetime lured just three buyers in a city known as the center of the art world.

The three lucky customers — including one woman who haggled a 50 percent discount — snatched up eight paintings for a total of $420 during the seven hours an anonymous elderly man manned the booth.

The works have an estimated total value of a quarter-million dollars.

The missed opportunity had New Yorkers besides themselves Monday.

“Wow!!!! How many of us are kicking ourselves now,” tweeted Marianne Russo. “Famous artist Banksy sells original pieces cheap in Central Park.”

“Wow. I was in Central Park this Saturday and TOTALLY missed this,” tweeted Michael Alvarado. “I’m an idiot!!”

“Holy cow. What I wouldn’t have given to have stopped by Central Park on Sat to purchase a Banksy,” tweeted Katie Morse, of Brooklyn.

Some art lovers, however, were more proactive.

One New York Banksy fan posted an ad on Craigslist bright and early, hoping one of the Saturday buyers might part with a canvas.

“I am definitely prepared to pay a very fair premium for the piece,” the seller told The Post in an e-mail.

Banksy had apparently been planning the fire sale for months.

“Two or three months ago, the old guy came by and inquired about using the space,” said Thuptin Kunkhen, 48, who sells art near the same spot outside Central Park.

Kunkhen said the old man — the same who was manning the booth Saturday — asked him how much he made at the stand on a normal day and paid him and a partner about $500 to use the space on Saturday.

“The next day, we heard the paintings were worth over $40,000,” Kunkhen told The Post. “Had he known they were such expensive paintings, we would have bought them all.”

Several men, including a man with a video camera, helped the older man set up the stand, but Kunkhen couldn’t tell whether any of them was the elusive Banksy, whose image may have been revealed last week.

The world-famous street artist couldn’t help but mock the Big Apple’s masses, posting video of the slow sales day on his Web site.

“Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each,” the artist wrote in text intercut in the video.

The booth, which consisted of a table and folding fence, was set up off Fifth Avenue at Central Park South next to other art peddlers at around 11 a.m. Saturday. Signs advertised nothing more than “Spray Art” for $60 — with no mention of the reclusive Banksy.

The elderly man went about four hours before making a sale.

The video shows him repeatedly yawning, eating lunch and otherwise looking bored as people strolled by without a second glance at the famous works.

Finally, at 3:30 pm, the first two pieces sold.

“First sale. A lady buys two small canvases for her children. But only after negotiation a 50% discount,” Banksy noted on the video.

Half an hour later, a New Zealand woman bought two of the pieces, paying $120, and earning a kiss from the man selling the art.

The stall minder hit the jackpot at around 5:30 p.m., when a man from Chicago stopped and said he was decorating his new house back home.

“I just need something for the walls,” he told the salesman before buying four large canvases and getting a big hug in return.

That turned out to be the last sale of the day, and Banksy’s street rep closed up shop around 6 p.m. with most of the pieces unsold.

The BBC estimated that the art pieces could be worth as much as $31,000 a piece.

But Banksy won’t be repeating the stunt.

In a note posted to his Web site, the artist wrote: “Please note this was a one-off. The stall will not be there again.”

Among the art lovers kicking themselves for missing out on the clearance sale was Emily Christensen-Flowers, a video producer at NBC News who describes herself as a “street-smart New Yorker” who “studied art history in college.”

While most pedestrians paid the sidewalk setup no mind, Christensen-Flowers actually derided the salesman when she walked by, assuming he was selling knockoffs.

“I know a fake Banksy when I see one — I thought,” Christensen-Flowers wrote on NBC’s Web site after learning each of the signed “knockoffs” was the genuine article.

“All day, I’ve been replaying my brush with Banksy through my head, trying to figure out if I missed any tip-offs that a pot of art-world gold was right under my nose.”

Meanwhile, the Craigslist buyer was still hoping for a bite from one of the buyers.

“I am simply a fan of his and in my late 20s, and not by any means part of the ultra-affluent crowd who his pieces usually end up with on the secondary market,” he said.

“I am in no way looking to get a ‘bargain’ but rather to pay something reasonable — yet enticing for the seller — for a piece that I would like to hold onto for the very long term.”

He also commended Banksy for the pop-up stand idea.

“I believe that he had a very pure intentions in wanting his pieces going into the hands of everyday people, and this is a way of making that statement,” he said.

Banksy is in the middle of a monthlong “residency” in New York, during which he has promised to complete a new work in the city and post it on his Web site.

Some of Banksy’s New York installations have included a slaughterhouse truck filled with stuffed animals touring the Meatpacking District, a concrete “confessional” on cement slabs in Manhattan, a beaver stenciled into a Brooklyn wall and a depiction of war horses sporting goggles behind a chain link fence on Ludlow Street.