Two weeks ago I went in search of Banksy. The famed British street artist had swept through Toronto, leaving seven of his stencils scattered across town (two more than what I had previously heard).
As news spread of Banksy’s visit I started receiving tips from a friend as to the location of one stencil in a neighbourhood close to our house. Based on the tips and a frantic Google street view search I sussed out a possible location. I rushed over to the neighbourhood and excitedly searched for the location. I found it, but not before an unfortunate graffiti tag had marked the stencil.
As the week passed the stencils were defiled. Some were removed or painted over, one was tagged, and another got flipped the bird.
Only the two above remain untouched.
The Globe and Mail wrote two articles on the sullying of the stencils. One article discussed one image that appeared on the wall of a private business. The owner had no knowledge of the art and quickly painted over it. The business had suffered numerous graffiti markings and the Banksy just added to the count and the cost of cleaning up.
The other article discussed the tagging episode and provided some insight as to why another graffiti artist would mark up the work of such an esteemed street artist. The reason provided focused on Banksy’s promotion of his documentary that opened the same weekend the stencils appeared. There was a notion that perhaps Banksy was selling out. For all his anti-advertising, anti-commercialism art he had become what he use to fight against.
In the end, I’m not sure any one really cares whether or not Banksy was ‘selling out’. People are excited that Toronto is now on Banksy’s map. Whether the stencils are meant to bring awareness to global concerns (the G20 is meeting in Toronto in June), or to promote his film, the art got people out and examining public space.
To be honest, I’m not sure that being placed on the Banksy map is something worth getting super excited over. When Banksy comes to town you know that your city (or country) is attributing to some serious global concerns.
This time around two of Banksy’s stencils did seem to take jabs at the upcoming G20 summit. One stencil is of a man in a suit with a sign around his neck that reads “0% interest in people”. Another is the same image but with a sign that reads “will work for idiots”.
Perhaps next time (although maybe it’s not good to hope for a next time), he can take aim at Harper’s lack of support for abortion in his maternal and child health initiative for the G8. An issue already hotly debated among World leaders.