“I’m not so interested in convincing people in the art world that what I do is ‘art,’ ” Banksy says. “I’m more bothered about convincing people in the graffiti community that what I do is really vandalism.”
Banksy’s distinctive style and provocative slogans have made him one of the world’s best-known graffiti artists. Banksy’s stencils feature striking and humorous images occasionally combined with slogans. The messages are usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Subjects include rats, monkeys, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.
In late 2001, on his first trip to Australia, he met up with the Gen-X pastellist, visual activist, and recluse James DeWeaver in Byron Bay, where he stencilled a parachuting rat with clothes pin on nose above a toilet at the Arts Factory Lodge ( now lost)
Banksy, created several stencil pieces in Melbourne on a subsequent sponsored visit in 2003, and in Sydney on a visit in 2005.
Banksy himself once stated that .. ” Melbourne is one of the graffiti capitals of the world.” – and that is because of the vibrant graffiti and street art culture that has developed over three decades in this city – locally grown, fostered and developed by Melbourne and Australian artists.
Unfortunately the image of a parachute-wearing rat floating down the wall of a building behind the Forum Theatre in Hosier Lane was painted over by council workers as part of a maintenance program on the 27th April, 2010.
Council said the cleaners were simply carrying out orders to remove graffiti from unauthorised sites when they destroyed the stencil of a parachuting rat. The Council is trying to differentiate between tagging and street art and doesn’t always get it right. Most of the buildings in Hosier Lane have permits allowing street art, but the Banksy rat, about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, was above a doorway at the rear of the old Russell Street theatre that did not have a street-art permit.
A few days after the embarrassing ‘cleanup’, ten new parachuting rats appeared in the lane as a tribute to Banksy’s whitewashed Hosier Lane parachute rat. The new Banksy “tribute rats” – are painted in a range of fluoro colours – and were stenciled by a masked male street artist known as Rattus Rattus.
Too read more about Banksy “down under” and find out where other Banksy stencils have been found in Melbourne and Sydney – then please hit the Continue Reading link below
As the “street art capital of Australia”, Melbourne Council was aware of the popularity of Banksy’s works and made exceptions to preserve them. Hosier Lane was the “street art Mecca of Melbourne” and should have been be the last place councils would be cleaning. In hindsight, council should have “acted sooner” to protect all known Banksy works.
Melbourne seems to have a strong history of street art going back to the 1970s, but has just recently started officially sanctioning specific pieces, walls, alleys, and tunnels throughout the city. The city has issued 29 permits so far, 19 of them being retroactive, meaning they were already bombed out spots that were later recognized and officially approved. See here for more information graffitti control website : .
It raises the question whether Banksy is better than the local stuff and who gets to decide?
The destruction of the stencil follows the loss of another Banksy work in 2008, when vandals tipped paint over a stencil near the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, of an old-fashioned diver wearing a trenchcoat.
This time it was painted over by some of our own local artists after being ‘protected’ by the council and the buildings’ owners by putting a sheet of perspex over the top.
All that the ubiquitous artist left was the simple tag: ‘BANKSY WOZ HERE’ on the ‘protective’ plastic sheeting that had chrome paint tipped over the side – a protest perhaps towards the selective acceptance of street art in our city.
Local street artist Phoenix quickly pasted up a vinyl replication of the little diver over the defaced perspex screen. The paste up now shows signs of wear and tear and has itself been subsequently vandalised … and so the circle of debate on the issue of street art continues.
Banksy elsewhere around Melbourne 2003
For the serious partygoer, none can rival the verging-on-derelict boozehall REVOLVER. Also known as Revolting, or ‘REVS’, this Melbourne stalwart is stencilled and grungy and rambling and full of just about every good-time girl and bad-edged boy in the city.
Revolver has a combination of attractions that other bars have tried but failed to replicate; you just can’t get that sort of ingrained dirt (that Revolver has in spades) in a brand new bar. The main room also plays host to regular art exhibitions – stencil work, graffiti and throw-ups being favourites.
Banksy in Sydney 2005
Banksy is known to have made several visits to Australia and there are ”three or four” good examples of his work around in Sydney
The best-known was a Little Diver on the wall of a shop in Enmore Road. It is unclear why the celebrated British graffiti artist Banksy chose the wall of an organic food co-operative in Enmore as his Sydney canvas. The metre-high painting of a man wearing an old-fashioned diving helmet appeared on the wall of Alfalfa House in Enmore Road about five years ago.
It is almost identical to the “little diver” a Banksy image that appeared in a lane in central Melbourne at roughly the same time
He is also believed to have painted a monkey design at Bondi Beach and, according to legend, paid an after-hours visit to Taronga Zoo to unsuccessfully try to photograph a monkey holding one his designs.
Bansky, is the elusive street artist who has tattooed walls from London to Hosier Lane, marking up public space with his satirical stencils and blurring the line between vandalism and invaluable cultural commentary.
As his stunts have gotten bigger, the evasive Banksy has become more and more fascinating. Banksy is deservedly the most famous or notorious (what you will) street artist in the world today.
Banksy started as a freehand graffiti artist 1992–1994 as one of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ). He was inspired by local artists and his work was part of the larger Bristol underground scene. From the start he used stencils as elements of his freehand pieces, too.
By 2000 he had turned to the art of stencilling after realising how much less time it took to complete a “piece.”
He claims he changed to stencilling whilst he was hiding from the police under a train carriage, when he noticed the stencilled serial number and employing this technique soon became more widely noticed for his art around Bristol and London.
Though he started his exploits in the streets of England, he is of international renown for works in such locations as New Orleans, Paris, Los Angeles, Melbourne and the Israeli West Bank.
Banksy is a legend, and no less for his anonymity than his art. He’s also a master prankster and pretty much the figurehead of anarchic protest art. He is the art world’s most famous enigma, an anonymous British graffiti artist whose witty, politicised designs are sprayed on walls from London to Jerusalem. He makes a point of his work enhancing a location and never detracting although not all would agree on that, especially municipal councils.
In almost twenty years of street art activism, Banksy’s true identity has remained a mystery (a much easier way to break the law). He has carefully guarded his personal particulars while encouraging speculation with bold, highly visible gestures, like hanging his own work in the Louvre and distributing counterfeit bank notes featuring Princess Diana instead of Queen Elizabeth (issued by the ‘Banksy of England’).
There’s no question of his technical abilities and his versatility as an artist. How he can take another work of art and redefine it to be seen in a contemporary, socio-political viewpoint means he’s an appropriator in the most skilled and respected sense.
“Maybe art is a bit of a joke?”
When is a piece of art not a piece of art?
Does an image have to be committed to canvas before it is beautiful or meaningful?
Need an artist be professionally trained, or can a hoodlum with a stocking on his head create something worthwhile?
For years the world of street-art has existed all around us; disenfranchised individuals taking to the cities, using spray cans, stencils, stickers – whatever they could – as a means to express themselves wherever they could.
But the question still exists: are they creating art?
The real risk of the work being removed adds a different sense of permanency to the pieces. Don’t just pass them, stop and look, really look, soak them in; keep them in the memory, for tomorrow they may well be gone.
Of course much of his work is stenciled and can be repeated elsewhere and any new work is photographed immediately and extensively. There is an irony to the fact they are regarded as graffiti, as disposable when other mediums make his work so very permanent.
I don’t think that escapes Banksy, and he even makes fun of it.
” Graffiti isn’t art, it’s vandalism. Big deal, he uses stencils. Oh wow, how artistic. Sandblast the crap off the walls and send the bill to him. What? Can’t find him? Funny about that. He knows what people do to vandals. ”
It’s unfortunate that one of the last remaining Banksy original street pieces in Melbourne has been wiped, but maybe it’s more remarkable that it lasted as long as it did, Pieces like this were never designed to be permanent, and sometimes it’s the ephemeral nature of art on the streets that is its biggest appeal.
Banksy’s parachuting rat outside Hosier Lane was in a non-street art sanctioned area (therefore done illegally) and in any other case would have been swiftly removed had no one announced that it was by someone famous and therefore worth something.
Street artists are continually criminalised, arrested, fined, and have their work painted over on a daily basis. No one blinks an eye
Is the work of our developing street artists (many who have gone on to be successful commercial artists) worth nothing?
When will the Council take into account that illegal street art done by local, non ‘famous’ street artists adds value to the culture of our city. That it might be worth protecting, developing and appreciating? Currently we have a clueless council who has free reign to destroy important art in and around our city.
Banksy started off as an illegal tagger and stenciler and still is today. By criminalising the work of some of his local contemporaries we risk ignoring one of our own Banskys and hinder their development into talented and world renowned artists.
When Banksy visited Melbourne in 2003 he left dozens of stenciled works around the city. Most of these have disappeared, without any media coverage at all. But in 2008, it was clear that the status of Banksy’s art in Melbourne, as in many other cities around the world, had changed.
Art, Value & Banksy’s rats in Melbourne
via Hyperallergenic / By Alison Young
So what was different?
Well, the answer lies in the value attributed to Banksy’s art after the 2006 exhibition of Banksy’s work in a show in Los Angeles called Barely Legal. The show was a huge success, and turned the elusive and anonymous figure into something of a celebrity. As is well know, his works then sold at auction and on eBay for large sums of money.
The combination of media attention and financial success lead many to take steps to “protect” or “preserve” Banksy’s works on the street.
In December 2008, Melbourne City Council faced media criticism for its attempt to preserve another Banksy stencil by bolting sheets of Plexiglas over it.
This work was known as the “little diver” stencil, located close to street level, in Cocker Alley in the center of Melbourne.
Local artists expressed their disdain for the artificial preservation of street art by pouring silver paint behind the plastic sheet and onto the stencil. On top of the plastic, the words “Banksy woz ‘ere” were written in black marker pen. The “loss” of the stencil prompted many to express sadness at the city’s “loss” through an act of what was called “vandalism.”
So if the obliteration of the little diver stencil was vandalism, what should we call the actions of Melbourne City Council, in “losing” another Banksy?
The council was at pains to characterize this event as an unfortunate accident rather than as indicative of a lack of appreciation for Banksy’s work.
It’s clear that while the works of Banksy are valued by the council (as “exceptions”), there is no comparable consideration for the works of other talented street artists, whether visitors or locals. Their work is always at risk of being lost. This is taken for granted by street artists, who understand that the street is an ever-changing setting and that a work is likely to disappear — which could be in a day, a week, or in years.
That doesn’t mean that Melbourne City Council’s removal of the Banksy rat from Hosier Lane is simply part of the flux that exists within the street. The council seems to believe that its system of issuing “permits” for street artworks is an appropriate way to “manage” street art and graffiti.
No permit existed for the wall Banksy’s rat happened to be on; even if it had, this seems like yet another form of artificial preservation — just another means by which the council can attempt to freeze the continually fluctuating landscape of the street in order to maximize their cultural or economic gain.
The city council are now talking about extending retrospective permits to other significant works of street art (leading many to joke that the council would set up a hotline number to phone if you spot a Twist or Sixten work, to save it from being “accidentally” buffed), but it would be better to reconsider the entire permit system, which at present concentrates all decision-making power regarding the retention or removal of street art in Melbourne in the hands of one committee.
And once again, local artists have demonstrated their disdain for the council’s actions, by painting a number of fluorescent rats on the walls of Hosier lane, as if to point out to the council its hypocrisy in fixating on one artist’s work, while ignoring the value of the contributions made by others.
What was deemed to be a suitable backdrop for a photo opportunity for mayor Robert Doyle, was also apparently such an eyesore to the deputy mayor that a cleaning crew was dispatched.
No-one in the department responsible for dispatching the crew seemed to notice (or care?) that the order was to remove art from a site that has become something of a local landmark: Hosier Lane is used as a location in the filming of local television shows, as a backdrop for people’s wedding photos, in fashion shoots and — indeed — in promotional material advertising Melbourne created by Tourism Victoria and by the City of Melbourne.
It has to be said that all the fuss made by the media and by the council seems just a bit hypocritical.
Yes, a Banksy has gone, but the work of talented artists disappears all the time, and is not mourned by the authorities.
Melbourne City Council might value the art of Banksy, but that hasn’t stopped either the State Government from enacting harsh anti-graffiti laws or the council from attempting to regulate street art through its permit process.
Instead of mourning the Banksy rat lost through the contradictions of a confused bureaucratic process, the city council needs to face up to the fact that Melbourne’s status as the street art capital of Australia demands greater intelligence from its municipal authorities.