Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall by Will Ellsworth-Jones: review
Tim Robey is moved by an attempt to pin down street art’s most elusive character, reviewing Banksy by Will Ellsworth-Jones.
‘I love the way capitalism finds a place – even for its enemies,” Banksy once told The New Yorker, in one of the surprisingly numerous interviews he’s agreed to conduct by email. It’s found him a cosy niche, lined with enough fur that he’s often forced into justifying it with this or that sly formulation. The price of authenticated Banksys on the art market may have peaked several years ago – and he’s never been in a hurry to hand out further certificates – but this hardly dents his status as a fixture on the scene, a name every urban gallery wants filling their white spaces.
Quite some leap from spraying hard-to-reach canal walls in the dead of night. To what extent Banksy even remains a “street artist” – and what that in itself might mean – are questions Will Ellsworth-Jones takes some time to address. His book isn’t a biography, exactly: it would be hard to write one when you’ve opted not to reveal the identity of your subject. As such, it may disappoint the casual browser, attracted by an ambiguous subtitle and eager for the scoop on Who Banksy Is. The Mail on Sunday revealed this in 2008, so you’d think it would be common knowledge by now, but it’s still a half-kept secret most fans are happier not knowing.
Banksy’s anonymity makes him a creature of contradictions: he’s the most famous graffiti artist in the world, and the most determinedly faceless. In placing him implicitly above the rank and file of his peers, it also makes him the sell-out many of them love to hate.
Dissing a rival in this arena is, of course, as simple as painting over them, and Ellsworth-Jones talks us through some of the spats in which Banksy, the defacer par excellence, has found the shoe on the other foot. His long-running feud with the London-based Robbo, whose crew took to obliterating as many Banksy pieces as they could find, perhaps points to the basis for Banksy’s fame in the first place, because nothing Team Robbo did in modifying his work had quite the wit of what was underneath. The recent stunts of “Hanksy”, who specialises in superimposing the face of Tom Hanks onto existing works by his near-namesake, show a little more flair. Full piece at The Teletgraph