Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Curious Incident of the Banksy 'Street' Art in a Museum

Two new Banksy pieces in England

All photos by shellshock

It’s official (almost).

Banksy has come away from the dirty nappies and dropped two sumptuous pieces in his old stomping ground; a.k.a. God’s own backyard, the West Country of England.


Not surprisingly Banksy has never done anything in genteel Cheltenham before, as the local ‘krew’ consists of a spotty 14 year old called Tarquin, and his dad, Miles, who works in London and graciously comes home at weekends to practise [water] bombing in the 80 metre garden at their Regency townhouse.

As is the norm these days early morning joggers spotted this intricate piece on Sunday morning (13th April) before the paint was dry, and although the tenant of the house didn’t quite know what was going on, she did go and have a look about 7.30am when the 3 ‘workmen’ who had erected a tent over the wall/phone box had just left.  CCTV shows 3 people wearing high viz jackets, driving the ubiquitous white van, arriving at 6am.


It’s on the side of a non-descript house where Hewlett Road and Fairview Road meet in a not quite as leafy area of Cheltenham [for those wishing to visit the postcode is GL52 6AJ, and the train station is less than 2 miles away].  The appeal of this particular house though was not only because its side wall is whitewashed and has a satellite dish on it, but also that it has a telephone box slap bang in front of it, and is on a high visibility mini- roundabout where 6 small roads meet.  All perfect Banksy material.  And finding a public phone box these days isn’t that easy you know!

Being located in Cheltenham is obviously a nod to the huge Government Communications Headquarters building 3 miles away on the other side of town.  More commonly known as GCHQ, this is the place where the UK government monitors global and national communications; i.e. where they spy on us all.

GCHQ say they are keeping Britain “safe and secure” and when asked to comment on the art, even gave a pithy reply that “our website gives a glimpse of what modern-day intelligence operatives are really like, although some may be disappointed by the lack of trench coats and dark glasses”.

Spending barely 15 minutes there this week was enough to make my ears bleed as I couldn’t help overhear the inane conversations of self proclaimed Banksy ‘experts’, a local Councillor, and a BBC news crew urgently called away from Mrs. Miggin‘s cat stuck up a drainpipe.  The usual rent-a-quotes then came out in the written media to exalt its genius, or pillory its tired middle of the road message (delete as applicable to fit your own immoderate point of view).
The truth of course is somewhere in between.  It has a certain charm and the quality is undoubted, but then again since when did illegal graffiti or ‘street art’ involve a tent and 90 minutes of relatively stress free work.  Its message may still be news worthy, but the piece is extremely tardy, as newspapers like the Guardian and the Washington Post were fearlessly reporting on US government electronic spying and Edward Snowden’s valiant whistle blowing since June 2013 and, in a peculiar twist of timing, were awarded a Pulitzer Prize the day after this piece went up.

In a turn of events more significant than the Cheltenham piece, I have wracked my tiny brain, and I believe this is the first ever Banksy street piece to end up in a Museum.

The first most people knew of Banksy’s second new piece (instantly known as 'Mobile Lovers') was when his web site was updated on Monday (14th April), and it mysteriously contained just two photos of a new piece and nothing else; not even one word.  The only clue as to its potential whereabouts was that a double yellow line and a partially cobbled street suggested is was a section of rough old road somewhere in the UK.

Yet it had been ‘found’ already and the location was made public on Tuesday morning.  Although the piece was in a small dead end road (Clement Street), it overlooked the main dual carriageway into central Bristol from the motorway where thousands of motorists sit daydreaming in long queues every day.  It was a classic Banksy location.  High profile, yet simultaneously low profile, and particularly photogenic at dusk, with the street light, cobbles and barbed wire close at hand, making the piece resemble an illicit love tryst in a dark doorway.

It was on a slab of board that was covering a old blocked up doorway next to the Riverside Youth Project.  Staff from the Broad Plain Boy’s Club, the charity who use the Council-owned building, rapidly took the board off and into the club for ‘safe keeping’.  Although Banksy pieces in his home town tend not to get dogged or stolen, I could understand this decision as the hype surrounding new street pieces has now reached intolerable proportions and this one was also easily nickable.  The club’s CCTV show that this one took an hour, under another tent, on Sunday morning although that does raise questions of how he did 2 pieces in 1 morning and how the photo on his website was in the dark.  CCTV suggests Cheltenham was done first and Bristol after, which means the photo of the Bristol piece in the dark must have been taken on Sunday evening.

With indecent haste the club’s leader, Dennis Stinchcombe, claimed it for their fundraising activities and said they would approach Bonham’s ASAP to sell it, whilst also promulgating the theory that Banksy had ‘left’ it there deliberately to help them out financially.  Later they stated they had received offers of over £1m for it.  I doubt it, unless Mr. M. Mouse was calling them up from his padded cell in the toy town detention centre.

A futile debate rapidly raged over ‘street art’ being taken out of context and ‘charged for’, whilst others said ‘calm down love, it’s only a painting’, and agreed it could help local Bristol urchins in this run down area, barely a stones throws away (admittedly by a very strong man) from where Banksy lived in the late 1990’s.

True to their word the club had immediately let people gurn at the piece, in return for a small donation towards their undoubtedly good work.  On Wednesday morning Mr Stinchcombe was still very bullish about their rights and when asked if they would hand it over to the Council if they asked for it he replied, “Definitely not.  Not only that but we don’t get the grants from the Council anymore… if they want to come up with some good grants they can have it”. 


The old adage that possession is 9/10ths of the law is nevertheless total balls and whilst taking photos there on Wednesday lunchtime I witnessed a surprise visit from the Cops, who checked it was still there and gave polite advice about its uncertain ownership status.
The elected Bristol mayor, George Ferguson, was apparently behind this and by the end of the day the clubs resistance had crumbled as it was handed over to more Police, who deposited it at the Bristol Museum, whilst the red trousered one declared that “It certainly would have been a cultural crime if this artwork had been lost to the City”.  Yes, and last week was the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide.  I’d hate to add up the uneven number of column inches these 2 ‘events’ have received. 

The mayor had a point though, even if he seemed rather heavy handed in his hyperbole and cries of ‘theft‘.  It certainly seemed a difficult inference to accept that Banksy had meant this to be taken away and sold off within days, even if it would help a good cause.

It went on display there yesterday (Good Friday), just in time for the resurrection. 

It will remain there until its future is decided, and if I were a betting man I would be wagering my kids that it will stay there.  I just hope I don’t acquire more ear-shattering kids as my winnings though.

Free entrance is assured at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1RL. 

A range of tacky souvenirs will apparently be available soon after the Easter hols.  More info here…

Monday, 10 March 2014

Hit Shot Wall - a wet month!

All photos: NoLionsInEngland (HowAboutNo pretending there were no trains all month from the South Coast, that's 4 x 5 = 20 days working from home, yeah!)

February has been a month of unrelenting street art activity by street artists clad mainly in anoraks and wellington boots. Going to kick our look back this month, a month where the elements really tested the longevity of paper based art, with a sculptural slant.

Love Piepenbrinck placed several new fancy dress piggies out on the streets and has teased us with a photo on Facebook captioned “Most Hidden Piggy – almost impossible to even photograph”, which we haven’t seen hide nor hair of.

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“Lay Off My Blue Suede Shoes”

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Camouflage Piggy

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Para Piggy

French street artists delight in showing us how it should be done, Nemi Uhu has placed a series of beautiful painted tiles on the Shoreditch streets.

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Nemi Uhu

Another French artist who really got up on a lot of walls was Gregos, over in connection with the Vitry Ville Street Art book signing. He does these cast selfies, they supposedly show his emotional condition each day and a lot of the London ones are poking their tongue out at us, bloody French!


One of the weirdest bit of street art we have seen in a long while is this space hopper stuck up in a tree by 616. Not so much referencing its context as totally subverting its environment, or perhaps is it actually meant to look like an oversize orange?

616 Space Hopper

Alex Arnell believes in giving away street art and places hundreds of hand cut and painted paper butterflies on walls. With the volume of rain we had in the month of February, Alex seems to have decided that the last place butterflies would want to hang out is down the drains and here a flock seem to be fleeing out of a manhole.

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Alex Arnell aka "Sell Out"

Without doubt one of the cleverest and most exciting things we have seen this month, perhaps this year, has been Borondo’s face by the canal on Hackney Wick, already drooled over on this Borondo Hits London Graffoto blog post.


Dee One’s Heavenly Rejects have been a delightful presence on the Shoreditch streets for about a year, his minature pieces such as devils painted on acorns is often easy to pass by. One of his most pleasing and most difficult to spot is this aquatic scene.

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Dee One

Don has been out painting the wall in February and we caught him in action one afternoon painting this girl cuddling her pet goat, once again Don comes up as about the most adventurous and detailed British stencil street artist active on outdoor walls.


This skateboarder by Unify is defying the no skateboarding prohibition as all good skateboarders must, though if you look closely maybe not is all as it seems with the sign! With the mooted demise of the Undercroft at its current location, I wonder if Unify has dropped this one just outside the skatepark? It's begging for it.

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Ben Slow created this portrait in support of Depaul, the message is don't let their story end on the street.

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Ben Slow

One of the most impressive and photogenic paintings in February was this little beauty by C215, over for a show (now closed) at StolenSpace.

C215 at night

K-Guy has been busy on the streets recently, his original Tr*ash fag packet paste ups were a delight back in the early days of my love for street art and he has now revived them with this reflection on the latest health demon – high sugar levels in food.

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Mr Cenz has also had a highly productive month painting letters and portraits, perish the presence of all the cars in this, errrr, car park.

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Mr Cenz

I can’t be sure when Mobstr painted this stencil but I only found it February, so because I love the humour and the ironic fun at the expense of social media obsessed street art fans, it counts as February in my time-warped calendar.

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Bit late this month and a bit rushed but fun as always.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Borondo hits London

All photos: NoLionsInEngland

Every once in a while a street artist creates a soaring spectacular piece of street art which resets the benchmark and blows the mind, and recently Spanish artist Borondo did just that with a breathtakingly original piece in Hackney Wick. A little bit of recent history first though, he came to London last Autumn and left behind some tasty new street art.  We were impressed but didn’t realise that was merely starters.

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The first works we saw were shadowy sketchy figures on the outside of windows, rendered by painting the windows white then scrapping the paint off using a thick touch turtle-shell coloured comb.


He did a set of windows on a building which has been refurbished and opened as a Mexican Cantina. At least it was last week, I haven’t yet been back today.

Borondo: Dias/Noche

Further up in the heart of Brick Lane he did this face.


He also dropped a large mural up in old street and then earlier this year painted a gate in Hoxton alongside Jaz.


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Borondo with Jaz, Hoxton

Now the piece-de-resistance,this stunning, hugely inventive and unusual piece appeared recently beside a canal in Hackney Wick. The idea of painting the face upside down so that its reflection appears the right way un is pure genius, a great example of the use of environment and context in a very unusual way.


Strong winds prevailing over the past month have yielded very few opportunities to get photos of this in still, mirror-like conditions but the upside of the catching ripples on the water is that Barondo’s character becomes animated! Whatever the poor chap is enduring we probably shouldn’t pry into but there is certainly a lot of pain and distress being articulated by the poor chap.

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The Many Faces Of Borondo

The art of Borondo does sometimes feature on Shoreditch Street Art Tours - subject to route and the art being there!

Borondo's blog is here

UPDATE: bumped into Borondo again this afternoon, here is a "making of" video by Fabiano Caputo of the Hackney Wick Narcissus.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

HISTORY! - Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant Subway Art Interviews Back In The Day!

I don't know how I have missed this, I have not seen it before but this contemporary short film is absolutely fascinating. A sprightly Martha Cooper jumps on top of car roofs to get those outdoor whole train panorama shots while Henry Chalfant does one of the best impressions of Keith Haring ever (ok...maybe I exaggerate).

Merci Beaucoup to French graff blog AllCityBlog for bringing this to my attention.

I met Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant  in 2009 at Black Rat when they came to London to release the 25th Anniversary edition of Subway Art.  That was an incredibly exciting experience for me.   None of us will ever replicate their achievement of truely discovering a new artform that had not been documented before quite like the way they did it.

To see what I wrote at that time about that anniversary edition of Subway Art and the experience of meeting Martha, Henry and NY legend Blade who was over with them, click HERE

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Best of London Street Art Part 2 - The Mural Bites Back

London has witnessed in 2013 a pretty significant growth in the number of large scale street art productions created with permission and indeed it seems, a growth in the number of organisations arranging spots for artists. Whilst Graffoto’s natural tendency is to prefer street art created without permission, we don’t judge just because something is painted without the frission of illegality, which is anyway a over-romanticised notion most of the time when what is really meant is “without explicit permission”.

We review the big, the wild, the bright and the spectacular here in part 2 of our review of 2013’s London street art, part 1 looked at the grittier less house trained stuff done without permission and should be read first HERE 

Words: NoLionsInEngland
Photos: NoLionsInEngland except HowAboutNo where stated.

Moniker Art Fair moved location and changed up a gear in October, attracting a large number of street art galleries and street artists. One of the best consequences was the lads from Souled Out Studios, Bon and Alex Face from Thailand and Mau Mau from the West Country painting this fun composition in which they gave Roa’s iconic bird a leg, which they proceed to barbecue.

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Bon, Mau Mau, Alex Face. Also feat Roa, Martin Ron

Not far away Alex Face and Bon illustrate themselves literally delivering a splash of colour to London’s walls.

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Alex Face, Bon

Dal East played a cunning game with a series of murals, staging a competition based around photographing all his fresh London murals which you could only complete by photographing the final hidden mural revealed at the launch of his London show.

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Dal East

At the same time Faith 47 executed her most spectacular work in London to date, though the timing won’t surprise anyone aware that Dal East and Faith47 are a married couple.

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The most stunning project by a mile was spraycan virtuoso Shok-1’s ten part X-Ray Rainbows paintings which commenced in 2012 and concluded in August 2013. Not all of our photographs in this slide show capture the pieces in their best condition as the artist intended, sorry Shok-1 Sir.

All photos: NoLionsInEngland

Miss Van’s last outdoor wall decoration in London was an illegal piece out in Ladbroke Grove, West London which survived until about 2007 so it was nice that she painted this stunning piece in Shoreditch in collaboration with Italian sculptor Ciro Schu.

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Miss Van, Ciro Schu (with Pure Evil mugging in the shot

Cranio visited from Brazil for the second time in just under 12 months and did a mixture of stunning illegal, permissioned and gallery work all based around the theme of the Amazon Indians indulging themselves with the gains from selling off their rainforest.

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The permissioned Cranio collaboration with HIN photographed below caused a little upset and mural organiser censorship, not because of the nudity or the suicide bomber or the obscene gestures but seemingly due to the pasted face portraits of evil dictators.

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Cranio, HIN, feat Alex Senna

Roa worked his large scale magic in a couple of London spots, most visibly on the Southbank but to more gory effect in an alley on the way to Hackney.


Alex Senna seemed to get to paint lots of spots in the Shoreditch area, this one featured a then topical nod to the new born Prince George.

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Alex Senna

Award for the least appropriate most thoughtless mural goes to the upside down break dancer painted by Martin Ron next to Roa’s bird on Hanbury Street, you might as well try to fit a Jackson Pollock and a Turner on the same canvas for all the relationship and harmony there is between the two subjects on that wall. After Cosmo Sarsen first in Bristol and Above in Shoreditch before him in 2013, did we really need another upside down breakdancer anyway?

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Martin Ron v. Roa, no contest!

During the London Art Fair week RYCA put up a crisp clean Clone troopers paste up collage on the boards erected outside Shoreditch Junk following the McDonalds sponsored buff at that spot.

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A particularly wild and wet night saw RYCA's paste up virtually jet blasted off the wall producing an effect RYCA liked so much he repaired the damage by recreating it with paste ups and stencils. As a sort of post script note – the weather over the Christmas break has added real damage to the simulated damage!

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Zadok has hit a lot of walls, not all of them necessarily with prior consent we suspect but all superbly realised.

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Dr Zadok

One of our favourite permissioned pieces in 2013 is the wild abstract assault RSH executed on the Lord Napier premises at Hackney Wick just prior to the Hackney Wicked Festival, a stunning visual attack on premises and eyeballs.

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One of the less fortunate projects realised during the year has been the “rejuvenation” of Hackney’s canal sides. Where once there was un-curated street art and graffiti there is now, in the case of the old sugar factory wall, a huge mural painted by foreign artists (ok..Scottish in one case) and rumour has it then coated with anti graffiti paint, oh the irony. So, that’s the displacement of many local un-curated artists in favour of curated and protected outsiders, not surprising really that feathers have been ruffled in the area. Nevermind, it’ll look nice in the brochure and the Olympic Legacy reports.

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Lyken, Moneyless

A local based artist who has been getting good walls this year is Dale Grimshaw who pulled off a couple of stunning gothic horror portraits, which is a good thing of course.

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Dale Grimshaw

Dan Kitchener got a lot of spraypaint onto walls this year as well, it’s hard to decide whether to favour the underground tracks paintings or the rainy neon nights studies more, he does them both beautifully.

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Dan Kitchener

Jimmy C has a pretty productive year, apparently the first of these images produced a 3D effect when viewed through 3D glasses, which could explain all those weird glasses we see people wearing in the area.


Jimmy C photos by HowAboutNo

Seems you could hardly walk around Shoreditch this year without seeing a new Lost Souls mural, bloody everywhere!

Lost Souls feat Captain Kris, SP047, Si Mitchell, Squirl

As usual, all opinions are those of the authors of Graffoto, happy to share ;-)

Happy New Year to all Graffoto readers and may you have a happy and colourful 2014.