Thursday, 6 October 2011

Something Interesting About Banksy, Really!

all photos: NoLionsInEngland except where noted

Central London today saw a truck decorated by Banksy coming out of obscurity and into the full glare of the popular art commodity market.

Banksy Turbozone Circus Truck

Banksy comes in for a fair amount of criticism for being a stencil artist and therefore not doing hardcore freehand schizz or just lacking can control. The critic’s purpose normally isn’t to make Banksy small but to merely make the opinion holder look big. Banksy has never claimed to be a spray can virtuoso and this truck doesn’t provide compelling evidence of excessive modesty, it simply is a fairly average piece of spraycan art.

Banksy Turbozone truck

On one side a host of winged monkeys watch over a Mohican coiffed glowing red hammer wielding class warrior smashing the system, represented by a tv broadcasting an image of a gas mask.

Banksy - Turbozone Circus truck

On the other side is what appears to be a depiction of police fleeing from a bull armed with flame spitting artillery on its back, echoing the old Heavy Weaponry staple from the Banksy oeuvre.

Banksy - Turbozone Circus truck

One of the monkeys even has a set of cross-hairs on its face, so this is a composite of many Banksy signature elements, which is nice. I presume the goons guarding each corner were to add some frission of danger or excitement to the display, who knows, maybe Team Robbo would turn up.

Banksy - Turbozone Truck

So far so dull. Nothing particularly special about this piece it seems but I’d like to draw your attention to one aspect for which I think this does stand out. Come and join Graffoto in the world of the Banksy obsessive.

How can you tell your genuine Banksy from a fake made using a stencil purchased for a couple of quid off the internet. One way, you can buy a piece of art from his official outlets, they come signed or with a certificate from Pest Control and possibly a certification that the certificate is certifiably a certificate and so on, Another way, you photograph a piece on the street and wait to see if that piece is anointed by inclusion on the photo gallery on Banksy’s website. I think it’s true that if you have the necessary geekish knowledge, you can prove that the Banksy website is registered to people who are now or used to be proud mates of the legend rather than a fake website.

Banksy Bear NoLionInEngland
photo NoLionsInEngland, also seen at!

Finally, back the day, this charlatan Banksy used to actually stencil tag his street art can you believe. By his own account he started stencilling because it freed him from the slowness of his painting and he evidently stopped tagging his work when things got a bit hot regarding the dubious legality of his work from a police perspective. Thanks to the natural life cycle of graffiti, his stencil tags are now a pretty rare find, particularly in such pristine condition and as large as the pair on this truck. (ok, since you obviously will start racking your brains, try the Manchester poodle and also Old Street Happy Chopper but you got to go some to some lengths to see that one).

Banksy - Turbozone Circus truck
Turbozone Banksy tag, driver side rear

Among last ones I found were this one up on a derelict site up in Islington, it used to authenticate a chucked TV identical to the one behind the Foundry and currently hidden under the “Rat Trap”. This site has now been built on and the tag was obliterated by the party wall.

city road banksy signature
Note the rare exclamation mark!!

Most recently but again this was a few years ago, I came across these rare indoor Banksy tags, knocked up in the private area behind a bar when he was doing a legal wall on a back street in London’s West End.

Banksy tag

How long ago did Banksy last tag one of his street pieces? There is only one oracle to consult with a question like that and that’s Shellshock, co blog jockey and author of the various definitive-as-possible-without-actually-being-authorised quides to outdoor Banksies. Shellshock believes the last piece to be tagged is the 2006 Naked Lover in Bristol, I didn’t even realise it had a tag.

Banksy - naked lover

Other gems from Shellshock are that this is far from being the only Banksy lorry. I Banksy Locations and a Tour he mentions a truck painted similar to the Abi tribute piece on Sevier St, Bristol (book ref BR17) and also from the late 90s (I believe) here is the well known “Fragile Silence” Glastonbury trailer, though in his book Shellshock identifies Brizzle homies Lokey and Inkie collaborators with Banksy on that one.

Fragile Silence Glastonbury Truck 3 copy
Fragile Silence, still photo copyright BBC

It is interesting to compare and contrast the Banksy tags on the two lorries, look at previously observed change in the letter a.

Fragile Silence tag
Fragile Silence c. 1998, trailer tag, still photo copyright BBC

Banksy - Turbozone Circus truck
Turbozone Truck c .2003, passenger side front

So there it is, Banksy doesn't tag his public art any more, the old tags disappear as is the wont of this ephemeral daubing and suddenly, up pop two huge, sharp banksy tags. Try to get to see them via the Drewatts Auction (Cumberland Hotel, Monday 10 OCt 2011) and cherish their scarcity value. Another reason to catch this truck, Shellshock believes that of the various Banksy lorries this one is probably the least known and least photographed, until today I suppose.

Banksy - Turbozone Circus truck

I am as always hugely indebted to my great friend Shellshock who dissected my half formed thoughts and provided a ton of the facts which were an invaluable help in writing this article. Shellshock was the architect and guide of the original 2006 Banksy Tours in London and based on those he went on to publish the hugely popular Banksy Locations and Tours, now in its 4th edition in the UK. Then followed in 2010 the Banksy Locations (And A Tour) Vol 2 which covered Banksy street art in more graffiti locations from the UK. US readers may be interested to know that PM Press has just published Vols 1 and 2 of the Banksy Locations books in quite substantially amended and updated form.

PS – When I speak of Shellshock being the “go-to” guy for information on Banksy’s street art, I say that cos we discuss it so often and his knowledge is invaluable. I should say I often also discuss Banksy stuff with Art Of The State and Howaboutno who know their shit and just as equally are orifices on the matter.

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