Monday, 15 October 2018

Banksy Love Is In The Bin

Banksy Love Is In The Bin
Sothebys, New Bond Street
13th - 14th Oct 2018

The art world lives in a truly weird parallel biosphere: it wears different clothes, eats different food, holidays in places Club 18-30 does not reach and it treasures bizarrely different values. Condemning art world indulgences and privilege is something the art world itself does not seem to be terribly fond of however when it is Banksy firing a bolt through art world sensibility without a shred of doubt whole world notices!

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"Going, Going, Gone"; photo: Banksy (instagram)

The basic facts have been circulating since Friday last and the fact that you are reading this suggests you won’t be plucking splinters from your stripped wood floor out of your chin at mention of a Banksy Girl With Balloon painting that shredded itself at a Sotheby’s auction Friday before last.

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As the braying arty rich descended on London for London Art Week, each of the major auction houses felt compelled to maintain their profile in the swanky art market place by drinking champagne paid for with other people’s money and holding their contemporary art auctions. The highlight of the Sotheby’s auction was to be a Banksy which since the auction has received prior acclaim as possible the best of the copies of this image, expecting a new PB auction result for Banksy etc etc.

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Catalogue extract courtesy Sothebys

In roomful of suits and pearl necklaces, the auctioneer’s gavel came down selling the artwork which was conveniently mounted on a wall, at a price that matched Banksy’s previous highest price for an artwork.  At that moment the art slipped out of the frame through a shredder to the accompaniment of what sounded like an artic truck reversing towards the rostrum.

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Luckily the moment was captured on film and appeared on Banksy’s website and Instagram account this week. Or should that say “Curiously, the moment was captured…"  As the bidding nudged towards a new record for Banksy’s art, someone in the room was not concentrating on the flamboyant auctioneer at all but happened to be filming the artwork as the auction ended, what were the chances huh? Photos of the suspected cameraman who is, along with many others in the room, suspected of not being Banksy are out there should you wish to locate them.

Sothebys, October 5th 2018, video courtesy Banksy website

Speculation and conspiracy surround this particular stunt by Banksy. Could this possibly have been fabricated in 2006 . Could this possibly really have been fabricated in 2006 in anticipation that it might appear in an auction years later? How many would Banksy have to make to ensure that the stunt could be executed in public rather than stymied by a private sale? Was it pure chance that this particular art piece would be mounted so visibly on the auction room wall rather than just wheeled in, given its 2 minutes in the sunlight on an auctioneer’s easel then trundled out again? Back in 2006 we had not yet had the first gold plated white gloved Urban Art Auctions (here), could anyone have reasonably predicted that Banksy’s art would be so lauded (i.e. expensive) as to be the highlight of an art week contemporary art auction?

The stunt is a work of genius in its production, execution (Sotheby’s involvement?) and impact Banksy of course is mocking the art world’s obsession with wealth, value and profit.

I Can’t Believe You Morons Buy this Shit, Banksy. Source: Banksy website.

Was Plan A that Girl With Balloon would shred itself to complete destruction? If it had Banksy would have highlighted to perfection the precariousness and ephemerality of the trivia to which the art world attaches its highest valuations. We won’t know ever.

Ironically the attention that this stunt garnered has stimulated speculation that the value of this specific piece has actually soared. Sothebys brought out a press release which confirmed that the purchaser is proceeding with completion of the sale, suggesting they certainly seem to think so.

“ When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
said the rich female European collector (Sotheby’s press release). You can but imagine horror and a completely different press release if the shredding had gone on to completion, one suspects the art world would have more of a struggle to see that as an artwork. As insurance against someone with a car door fob accidentally reactivating the shredder it seem sensible if the buyer removed any batteries located in the frame!

Sotheby’s press release also had a statement from a Sothebys suit describing this as a new Banksy “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one. Following his surprise intervention on the night, we are pleased to confirm the sale of the artist’s newly titled Love is in the Bin..”; so declared Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, Europe

Banksy’s authentication agency Pest Control issued a Certificate of Authenticity so confirming that in its rearranged form this remains an art work by Banksy and gave it the title “Love Is In The Bin”, a jokey reference to the nickname applied to Banksy’s image Love Is In The Air, also known as the Flower Chucker, which inspired more ripoff teeshirts than any other Banksy painting.  Love Is In The Bin has been dated as 2018.

Love Is In The Air, Banksy. Source: Banksy website.

That change of title and more importantly, changing the date of the artwork to 2018 as opposed to say “2006 and 2018” or “2006 modified 2018” neatly swerves away from suggestions that the original Sothebys catalogue listing was possibly inaccurate in some of its details.

Dissecting the clues and X-raying the artefacts has all the romance of a debate on whether Father Christmas’s sledge is made with sustainable holly and ivy, it really misses the substance of Banksy’s achievement. This weekend, and now we get closer to the point of this post, Sothebys put the so called new artwork on public display.   Queuing was about 45 minutes to an hour on Sunday afternoon, the guards marshalled orderly lines of visitors, the artwork was beautifully hung to be visible from both sides, well lit, well sign posted and well controlled.


The window display on New Bond Street trumpets the next swish expensive auction, called “The Midas Touch” but doesn’t the display look exactly like some gold has been passed through a shredder? There's art world alchemy right there, even shredding can be turned into gold.

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Sotheby's window display 14th October 2018

When we say “well sign posted”, someone in Sotheby’s signage department couldn’t handle the complexity of the new title and left it suggesting something rather more fetishistic than Pest Control probably intended.

Love In The Bin - Sothebys

The catalogue listing for the original "Girl With Balloon" piece described the work as "signed and dedicated on the reverse", presumably what looks like black tape in a recess on the back is masking the dedication but there's the signature in all its glory.

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Love Is In The Bin rear view

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Banksy signature

Barely 200 yards from Sothebys is the far less iconic but I would argue much superior specimen of Banksy art, Shop Till You Drop.

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Shop Till You Drop, Banksy, 2011

This afternoon it was completely deserted!

Shop Till You Drop, Banksy, 14th October 2018

Banksy may have a lot of disparaging things to say about the art world but the ironic effect of his stunt is to draw far more people into the bosom of the opulent, canape nibbling, air kissing art world and none to the very close by street art masterpiece, whilst simultaneously ramping up the commodification of his art.

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Shop Till You Drop 2011

Banksy – you've clearly got to up your shredding game here!

17th October UPDATE:

Last Sunday Graffoto said "Was Plan A that Girl With Balloon would shred itself to complete destruction? If it had Banksy would have highlighted the precariousness and ephemerality of the trivia to which the art world attaches its highest valuations. We won’t know ever. "

WRONG! (at least the last sentence anyway) Banksy "Shredding The Girl And Balloon - Director's Cut" just released shows plan A WAS complete destruction

Banksy website
Banksy instagram
Sothebys website

Photos Dave Stuart (instagram), except where noted

Friday, 12 October 2018

Sweet Toof back, with friends

If there is one thing Shoreditch has lacked in the past few years it is the regular sightings of shocking pink gums and pearly teeth from Sweet Toof, the last proper dental checkup around Brick Lane was a paste up bombing session with Insect in 2013.

Paul Insect, Sweet Toof
Paul Insect, Sweet Toof, 2013

Last Christmas a glorious selection of shutter paintings appeared in Dalston around the time of a joint exhibition with Rolf Carl Werner at the BSMT Space. The Graffoto review of that show (here) has a selection of some Sweet Toof street art classics and indeed it neatly makes the point that Sweet Toof loves a collaboration.

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Sweet Toof & Rolf Carl Wener, Dalston 2017

The link to BSMT is significant as last week at Moniker Art Fair (here) BSMT exhibited for the first time in an art fair environment and their eye catching display included work from the aforementioned molar magician.

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BSMT Space, Moniker Art Fair 2018, feat Sweet Toof, A.CE, Skeleton Cardboard, Rocco and Brothers

Sweet Toof’s presence in the Brick Lane area has resulted in several spots receiving a new set of snappers starting at the top end with the Brick Lane Gallery now sporting a Salt Toof Beigel facade to match the famous Beigel shops opposite.

Sweet Toof
Sweet Toof

Skewville was also spotted hanging around Moniker Art Fair (here) and this is significant as Skewville and Sweet Toof have previously connected in London and NY with each hosting solo shows for t’other in their respective cities. Skewville’s “Slow Your Roll” show was held at High Roller Gallery (covered here) whilst Sweet Toof took a bite out of the big apple at Factory Fresh.

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Skewville, "YO"/"YO" London 2011

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Sweet Toof, Dark Horse, New York 2012 - photo Luna Park

Brick Lane saw them collaborating on an old Sweet Toof spot, Skewville giving it a big New York “YO” over the full Sweet Toof set.

, Skewville
Sweet Toof, Skewville 2018

Sweet Toof, Burning Candy, Brick Lane same spot olden times

Back in 2008 Sweet Toof turned a hostile fencing feature into a set or razor sharp incisors, which lasted into 2014 and has now been reclaimed.

Sweet Toof
Sweet Toof 2018

Sweet Toof razor sharp 2007

Sweet Toof
Sweet Toof v. Pez & Nylon 2018

In years to come people will sigh wistfully as they recall seeing Sweet Toof, Pez and Nylon on the same wall in an alleyway.

The biggest buzz for a street art spotter comes in chancing upon a significant piece of street art by a favoured artist and turning into the alley leading into the Seven Stars Car Park on Tuesday this huge set of gnashers was found. The teeth are by Cash4 and Skewville, and it was news to us that Cash4 was in London.

Sweet Toof, Skewville, Cash4
Sweet Toof, Skewville, Cash4

The significance of this spot for Sweet Toof spotters is that this alley way was once grazed by a massive Lenny Highroller by Sweet Toof and his Burning Candy mates and this did last years.

Sweet Toof, Burning Candy, Seven Stars 2007

SO Sweet Toof does some business reclaiming some old spots, collaborates with old friends and hooks up with NY muckers.  Meanwhile, Skewville's invasion of London was put to good use with some of his old spots getting a fresh pair of screen printed converses.  As always, look closely.

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Skewville, London 2018

Dentists recommend you get your teef checked once in a while and Sweet Toof’s Instagram reveals more molar imagery that has been added in East London locations this week, something to track down and check out.


Sweet Toof instagram
Skewville instagram
BSMT Space website

Photos as noted:

Luna Park instagram
Dave Stuart instsagram

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Skeleton Cardboard: Still Not In Use

BSMT Space

Skeleton Cardboard doesn’t make art show aficionado’s lives easy. In fact he could be said to drive people to death as the skeleton count on the street and in the gallery piles up thanks to his art and at the same time his exhibitions are always almost impossible to find. Graffoto is here to help with the later.

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BSMT in use (sign may vary)

In 2015, Skeleton Cardboard staged a 2 day pop up art show in someone else’s front room in Shoreditch to a non-existent barrage of publicity. Skeleton Cardboard converted the living room into a dead room, Graffoto chanced upon the artist luring unsuspecting unfortunates in and upon escaping with its life intact, wrote Skeleton Cardboard’s last rites, link here. Curiously the current BSMT show has the same title as the 2015 dance macabre.
Redchurch St, 2015

That "rite up" looked at Skeleton Cardboard’s street art, his collaborations and his free art giveaways so this time by way of update here are some hand finished prints and a recent collaboration he did on the Shoreditch streets with another Graffoto favourite Donk:

Calvin St, 2018

Fashion St, 2018

There is a brilliant irony in the placement of that collaborative print on the wall pictured above, there are 3 skulls in the frame yet none of them are by Skeleton Cardboard, genius!

BSMT’s basement gallery has taken on the appearance of a subterranean charnel house with the accumulation of a hoard of freshly dead skeletons.

SC Panorama

The frozen grins of the reanimated cadavers are a fa├žade masking their disbelief at our modern ways. Their bony brains are bamboozled by the dire warnings that constrain and limit our risk averse, arse covering life.

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Danse [sic] Macabre/Internet Connection required

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Ironically, the newsphere has for the past week been following the consequences of a judge deciding that an international food purveyor was to blame for a young girl's death because they sold sandwiches with inadequate labels, so perhaps Skeleton Cardboard’s characters are right to fear the morbid possibilities contained in these stark product and lifestyle notices.

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Not In Use/Not Evolving

Skeleton Cardboard’s humour extends to a lovely self-deprecating mockery, the skeletons are delivering advice and warnings back to the artist, it's either a huge “no fucks given” self-confidence or someone’s self-doubt and paranoia is being hung up to the light.

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Refresh Yr Head/I Can't See The Point

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Refresh Yr Head/I Can't See The Point (Detail)

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Refresh Yr Head/I Can't See The Point (Detail)

BSMT’s basement has two alcoves which have in the past few years have provided artists with plenty of scope for installation fun but they seem almost purpose built for conversion by Skeleton Cardboard into some kind of occultish crypt. Other observers have identified “Day Of The Dead” inspirations but Skeleton Cardboard is, perhaps unintentionally, pastiching Haiti Vodou (voodoo) shrines.

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Deletions, crossings out and corrections form the basis of colourful abstract compositions from which the skeleton and the skull are absent, so empty coffins perhaps though the title, 0111, may be a binary representation of something deadly or more likely something rude.

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Just About Holding It together

The host for this plague of rigor mortis is BSMT Space and this week they are embarking on their first foray into the Art Fair world. They are one of the galleries exhibiting at Moniker Art Fair which goes from strength to strength and is expected yet again provide a fresh take on the urban art scene. If finding the actual BSMT Space is too challenging or too remote, Skeleton Cardboard is going to be featured on BSMT’s stand at Moniker, along with other long established Graffoto faves Sweet Toof and Ace.  A nice little sweetener is that thanks to BSMT, readers who make it this far into the post in time can get a 30% discount on the Moniker ticket price using the code LDNBSMT30 at the checkout, do shoot them a courtesy email ( to let them know.

The origins of the artist’s handle lie obviously in a fetish for drawing skeletons but let’s not forget the other part of the name came from the preferred material used to put these skeletons out on the street, so it’s good to see cardboard appearing on the walls and indeed in the shrines, they may be skeletal but there is life in them bones.

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Skeleton Cardboard instagram

BSMT Space website

Moniker Art Fair website

All photos: Dave Stuart

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Conor Harrington: The Story Of Them And Us

HENI Gallery
1st floor
6-10 Lexington St,
London W1F 0LB

(press the buzzer!)

14th September — 13th October 2018

It’s art week in London, a bunch of clever and many not so clever arty people meet a bunch of artlessly rich people in large tents to exchange money, business cards and air kisses but if you’re reading this you probably don’t fall into either category. Artists from the world of graffiti and street art are increasingly smashing down the door and gatecrashing the party and if you are in London this week, have a break from the stark and snooty “yen, euros or dollars?” gallery cubicles and make your way to Conor Harrington’s show close by just off Soho.

Conor's latest series of painting presents an almighty tussle, an epic struggle; it’s left versus right, it’s red versus blue, it’s socialist versus capitalist; it’s politics and it’s gory, it’s dirty and it’s beautiful, and you have a ringside seat.

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L-R The Blind Patriot (Red), Blind Patriots 2, Meditations Of A Royal Ringmaster, Blind Patriots 1, The Blind Patriot (Blue)

In the first room we have to our left the forces of red and to the right is the blue army but Man United versus Chelsea it ain’t. We have posturing, we have fine clothing, we have brogues that look like the butler just finished polishing them and there are flags.

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The Blind Patriot (Blue)

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The Blind Patriot (Blue), detail

Pick a favourite colour, red or blue? You can’t win though, either way someone is going to poke you in the eye and kick you in whatever passes for your genitalia for picking the wrong one.

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The Blind Patriot (Red)

This thunderous struggle takes place in a very formal, clinical and orderly space. The pristine surroundings blush at the violence erupting all around us, like a vicar trying to apologise to both sides when fisticuffs break out at the wedding party.

Codebreakers Trying To Crack The Kingdom
Codebreakers Trying To Crack The Kingdom

Let’s make no mistake this display has masculinity, testosterone and belligerence, aggression and knuckleheaded stupidity right through it. Rather like some of our politicians.

Meditations Of A Royal Ringmaster (detail)

It is entirely appropriate Conor is coming out fighting during what is known in the UK as party conference season, in real life news the forces of blue on right are tearing themselves apart over very stupid ideas. Meanwhile the red party beat themselves up caught between a vaguely sensible proposition supported by some of the party but opposed by the other half of the party who feel it’s not commie enough and so prefer the same outcome the nasty wing of the blue party wants. The enemy of my enemy is still my fucking enemy, so there is no negotiation in these canvasses, you get smacked right in the face.

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Meditations Of A Royal Ringmaster

Conor’s colour palate is exuberant and dramatically romantic, lush passionate colours are applied with bold sweeping gestures;

Confessions Of The Self Saboteurs

In some places there is regal solidity while in others there is a complete breakdown as energy flows through the participants in the drama.

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Blind Patriots 2

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Blind Patriots 2 (detail)

Battle is joined with the protagonists flailing at eachother using their flags, like a bar brawl in a matador camp.

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The Hunter And The Haunted

Conor’s art schooling began with graffiti writing before a period in formal art school, not much remains in the way of graffiti stylings but those amazing specimens of Conor’s street art are reflected in the drips and splatters of spray paint in many of the works.

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L-R Confessions Of The Self Sabateurs, A Holding Pattern And Dark Disco, Codebreakers Trying To Crack The Kingdom

In a lovely video by Andrew Telling Conor discusses his tools, techniques and the thinking behind the subject matter.

The Story of Us and Them - Conor Harrington from Andrew Telling on Vimeo.

It is a week of madness and indulgence and money this week in London. Admission to Conor’s show is free!


Conor Harrington website

Conor Harrington Instagram

 All photos: Dave Stuart