As the legend of Banksy reaches fever pitch, the tide begins to turn for urban artistry
For many years graffiti has been seen as a nuisance – a disfigurement of public spaces by bored and wearisome youths in hoodies and high-tops – but now it seems that so-called ‘urban artists’ may be having something of a fashion moment. As the price of works by British street artist Banksy begin to escalate into seven figure sums, the trend for such alternative artworks booms at an almost equal rate.
Arguably the turning point for graffiti, the fiercely elusive Banksy has begun to adapt mass stereotyping of street artists by appearing both relevant and humorous. Many of his pieces are intensely ironic, such as an elderly woman painting the words ‘KEEP BRITAIN TIDY’ on a wall on blood red ink or a bear eating a fish skeleton in a city stream. Over the past few years, the artist’s following has continued to develop and multiple tabloids and broadsheets have attempted to expose the secretive performer. On each accusation, his spokeswoman has reacted with variants of the same line: "I will never confirm or deny these stories."
Banksy is undeniably one for courting the media attention. At the opposite end of the scale is The Underbelly Project; an illegal and therefore highly secretive scheme undertaken by two daring urban artists in an undisclosed location under New York City. The only solid details officially released are the pseudonyms of the project’s organisers – Workhorse and PAC – and the fact that the artistry spreads throughout an unfinished and forgotten subway station underneath the Big Apple.
Over the past 18 months, these two street artists have secretively initiated a colossal artistic expression across this disused hovel, inviting scores of well known names in the graffiti world to join them in their quest. Such creative minds (and hands) include De Feo, Elbow Toe, SheOne and The London Police. Synonymous with this form of street art, Banksy was duly invited but had to decline due to time constraints with the promotion of his new film.
Feature writer for The Sunday Times Magazine Jasper Rees was recently invited down by Workhorse and PAC to compose a fitting memorial for New York’s best kept secret. His response is chilling and fascinating in equal measure, inciting bloggers across the world to ponder the whereabouts of this mystical artistic labyrinth. As yet it remains undiscovered.