Artistic Security | The Norwich Radical

by Jess Howard1

The work of the infamous graffiti artists Banksy has caused controversy and divided opinions since it began to appear around Britain in the early nineties. His identity has supposedly been revealed countless times, and many auctions have attempted to sell off his work, to leave the new owner responsible for its protection or removal. Throughout every piece of controversy, the artist has remained anonymous.

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( Guardian)

A fan of graffiti art in general, I have always been a member of the pro-Banksy camp.

Whilst I understand the issues and ramifications of vandalism, to me art seems like one of the best methods of political activism. However, the recent awarding of listed status to a Banksy piece in Cheltenham struck a chord with me. The mural depicts three spies inspecting a phone booth, and was painted onto the side of a Grade II listed building.

Since its appearance it has been repeatedly subjected to vandalism of its own, with other graffiti artists attempting to cover it in their own paint. Owing to the fact that the image was unauthorised, it could not be protected under the buildings pre-existing status.

Cue reactions from Cheltenham Borough council, who bent the rules of the need for pre-confirmed planning permission to grant the images a listed status. With a vote of 12 to 1 in its defence, the image can no longer be altered or removed without authorisation.

In my opinion, if the piece had been produced by anyone else, Cheltenham Borough council would not have responded in the same way.

It seems that the identity of the creator is, in this instance, more important than the work itself.

For an artist that is as famous for his anonymity as he is for his work, it seems strange that a painting of his would be protected purely because of his name. I am in no way disputing the value of Banksy s work. He has successfully altered the public s opinion of graffiti art, increasing its value and positive reception.

But he is not the be all and end all of the medium. You only have to look around Norwich to see some fantastic examples of graffiti art. Even examples that have taken a similar route to Banksy in terms of political activism.

Take local street artist :J for example.

His work can be seen throughout the city, particularly around the Norwich lanes. One image, directly opposite Strangers Cafe, depicts what could be perceived to be a homeless person draped in the Union Jack. The figure sits below a gold spray painted phrase that reads Britain Wins Gold , and in front of him sits a small open box with the words Homelessness Endurance Event .

In a similar style to Banksy, delivering a political message is clearly the aim of this, also unknown, artist.

( oswaldrepent)

( oswaldrepent)

It would seem that a desire to express a political stand point through art is a common goal for certain graffiti artists. Ones that see the medium as a platform rather than a method of artistic expression.

I don t however, believe that Banksy s piece deserves to be protected by the Grade II status of the building. Predominately because I do not believe that art should be protected in such as meticulous way.

In spite of every best interest, every piece of art will one day decay. Paint and pigment lighten in colour, and clay deteriorates with age.

Given that Banksy chooses to produce his work outside, his goal is clearly not to extend the expiration date of his work. His message is clearly the content, not the pure artistic form.

In the long term, I do not see the point in trying to protect something that was designed to decay in the first place.

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