Banksy: Visionary or Vandal?

You decide if his infamous public creations are illegal graffiti or fine art

How would you feel if you woke up one morning to discover that someone painted on the side of your home? You’d probably be mad—unless the culprit was Banksy. The British street artist paints on public and private property around the world, without the permission of property owners. According to the law, Banksy is a vandal so he keeps his real name and identity a secret. However, many have argued that his paintings aren’t graffiti but rather works of art to be admired.

In 2013, Banksy declared that he was doing a month-long “residency” in New York City. He created one new piece in a different location around the city each day. New York officials vowed to capture and charge Banksy for vandalism. But the police were unable to catch him. The mayor declared that any Banksy work found on city property would be painted over.

Many people in the art community and the general public see Banksy’s art in a more positive light. The public nature of his work means that everyone has access to it. This allows for a much larger audience to enjoy it than art in museums or galleries. Banksy’s stylistically unique paintings and installations have social or political undertones that give the work deeper meaning than most graffiti. But is that enough to make them art? 

Art collectors think so. Banksy’s pieces can sell for over a million dollars at auction. So when he paints on the side of a building, the building’s property value increases significantly. Some property owners even take measures to protect Banksy’s art with fences, transparent cases, and security guards. Banksy’s work is so popular that during his New York residency, thieves stole several of the artist’s new works. 

Banksy continues to elude authorities as he creates work in cities around the world. What do you think? Should Banksy be celebrated for making public art or prosecuted for making illegal graffiti?

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