For those of us who treat street art like a “religion”, there is no artist more godlike than Banksy. He is the most elusive, most obscure, most anonymous. There is proof that he exists, yet he is so mysterious. No one can cause quite the same stir as Banksy. He inflicts high “Banxiety”* if you will. But, why? Is it his approach, his political and social commentary, his humor? It could be that sense of urgency because his pieces tend to not last very long.
You can even argue when Banksy had his last NYC residency, the great rat race of October 2013, he turned street art into a sport. Some people who weren’t necessarily fans became fans overnight, and in turn this opened up the world of public art to a larger audience (for better or worse, depending on your opinion).
Friday, I was on the Banksy trail. (Note: at this time, we still don’t have 100% confirmation that these are the works of Banksy). In Midwood, Brooklyn, there was a pretty large piece on a wall near an abandoned gas station. It depicted a man in a suit and hard hat holding a red line up like a whip. It looks like people are being driven out of their neighborhood, exposing the inevitability that is, gentrification in NYC. To redline is to refuse to provide goods or services, like mortgages or insurance, to areas (usually urban) seen as an economic risk.
In Harlem, "You Loot, We Shoot", we find a stencil of a New York Stock Exchange worker, looking very guilty, running away with a pile of money. Maybe this piece is saying that the real looters are found on Wall Street? Or maybe it's about big business, the NRA, or gun violence in America?
With the new Bowery mural protesting the imprisonment of artist and journalist, Zehra Doğan, or these latest works, Banksy is using his power, his art, to bring certain issues to light. He knows he has the attention of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, through social media, so why not use this power for good?
While we're still sleeping, Banksy or his street team of saints are probably out there performing another "miracle". We gather at each new location, just like any good congregation would. At Sold, we have faith and are looking for a sign, ready to hunt for the next Banksy. Where will he strike next?