Banksy on Rothesay Avenue; Art or Hype?

Amber Chow

Amber discusses the hype around the new Banksy piece in Lenton and explores the controversial relationship between fame and art.

The new Banksy piece on Rothesay Avenue – I cannot say I have not heard about it, far from it. My following’s Instagram stories, and posts have been flooded with selfies and photos of themselves with the new art piece. But the question I hold is… why? The interesting thing is, those who I see posting about it have never shown interest in art, let alone Banksy, so why the sudden craze to go to visit the site and document and post it? This makes me then question, are visitors just going because it’s a ‘Banksy’ piece; would they have noticed it, if it were not by a verified artist? Is it just the flex that people are after?

I stood behind the iPhone feeling embarrassed and feeling sorry for him whilst I snapped photos of the two

This scenario reminds me of similar situation a year ago: I remember meeting Isaac Hempstead, an actor who plays Bran Stark in the famous HBO series; Game of Thrones. One day at work, Hempstead walked in the shop and a customer identified him as Bran from the show and asked to take a selfie with him. My colleague and I who do not watch Game of Thrones had no clue who this admired person was, but once she realised it was someone ‘famous’ she rushed to ask him for a photo also. Hempstead, with a baseball cap and a large scarf on indoors, who transparently only wanted to do a spot of shopping without being harassed with selfies, was evidently displeased that he could not live a ‘normal’ Thursday afternoon. His face looked dejected whilst forcing a smile upon himself, standing next to my beaming smiley colleague. I stood behind the iPhone feeling embarrassed and feeling sorry for him whilst I snapped photos of the two.

Walking past the Banksy wall the other day, I found a long queue of viewers patiently awaiting to take photos with Banksy’s piece and interestingly, I found someone handing out flyers, self-promoting their restaurant. I found this completely absurd that this wall on Rothesay Avenue has now become somewhat of a landmark of Nottingham and due to its popularity, it is now being used as a place of marketing.

It almost defeats the purpose of it being intended to be accessible interpretative street art by everyone

In addition to this, the Nottingham council has placed a sheet of plastic Perspex over the work, which I have my views upon. Though with the understanding that it protects Banksy’s work, I feel by doing so, it almost defeats the purpose of it being intended to be accessible interpretative street art by everyone. Also, because of this I feel its authenticity cut. The key term; accessible. The artist chose to paint on a public inconspicuous wall, rather than delicately place the work in a fragile gallery which I can only assume by doing so, he allows viewers to involve themselves with the art. Now, participation is merely limited to photo taking and observing from a distance. Besides, I feel Banksy would not want for people to worship his work in those ways hence the anti-capitalist stunt he pulled shredding the ‘Girl with Balloon’ piece back in 2018 (which ironically inflated the original price of the artwork).

However, with all due respect, I conclude that I understand my views are somewhat controversial and even personally am weary on whether I am being overly pessimistic/blunt with my perspectives. I feel I am sympathetic that there is something to be considered about how I myself view art in comparison to those who are simply just excited to have a famous named artist’s work in the local area. Hence, the Nottingham council putting Perspex over it. I am also respectful towards the concept that Banksy intentionally painted in a public space, on something so general and residential, a wall. So surely all this popular attention is expected by him (moreover, this is generally the public reaction after a new painting). The fact that he made it so easily accessible opens opportunity for viewers to react to it this way.

Amber Chow

Featured image courtesy of Maya Israel.

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