Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Banksy made a monkey out of me. 

On Saturday afternoon, I was taking two out-of-town friends on a tour of Central Park, giving them the insider's view of the city.

One pal idly mentioned that she was hoping to buy a bag — one of the designer knockoffs hawked on every Midtown corner
Moments later, we happened to pass a table filled with white canvases covered in stenciled spray-paint images, near one of those ubiquitous "your-name-in-calligraphy" artists.

"Look at this guy," I said with a note of derision. "Knocking off Banksy."

Banksy, of course, is the world-famous street artist whose original works have sold for more than a million bucks and who is in the middle of a month-long "residency" in New York.

Every day, he completes a new work in the city and posts it on his website. There's been a slaughterhouse truck filled with stuffed animals, a delivery truck housing a trompe l'oeil paradise and a bunch of graffiti that's been instantly defaced.
I've been following his travels through the boroughs. Five years ago, I attended his installation in Greenwich Village. Plus, I studied art history in college.
So, I know a fake Banksy when I see one — I thought.
As counterfeits go, these were pretty good, I had to admit. I noticed there were quite a few pieces with a monkey motif, and my boyfriend really likes monkeys.
But as a street-smart New Yorker, I wasn't about to give my hard-earned cash — they were $60 each — to some con artist trying to capitalize on real art.

On we walked, out of the park and past the Museum of Modern Art, where Banksy once surreptitiously hung his own painting of a can of cream-of-tomato soup.

That guy — such a joker.

This time, however, the joke was on me and countless other New Yorkers and tourists who marched past the unassuming table with the sign "Spray Art."

Because, as I found out when I got to work on Monday and read a story about Banksy's weekend exploits, every single canvas on that table was the genuine article — and signed, to boot.

A video on his website revealed it took hours to make a sale. A woman bought two for her kids, after negotiating a 50% discount. A tourist bought two, and a man from Chicago bought four to decorate the blank walls of his new house.

Each one is worth at least five figures, if past sales are any indication. The bragging rights? Priceless.
All day, I've been replaying my brush with Banksy through my head, trying to figure out if I missed any tip-offs that a pot of art-world gold was right under my nose.


Although, now that I think about it, one of those monkeys I was looking at for my boyfriend was wearing a signboard.

The message: "Keep it real."   DES - be sure to watch the video at the Bansky Link


Bizzy Brain said...

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Douglas E said...

Bizzy - great story, and great final statement - right on!