Monday, 29 October 2018

Dscreet Top 40 Covers

BSMT Space (see photo below)

In December 2008 a parliament, for that is what a group of owls is called, assembled in the famous Pure Evil Gallery cellar for a solo show by Dscreet. Graffoto raved about Dscreet’s solo show in that famous cellar and indeed a pair of Owls has adorned NoLions Towers ever since.

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Words Up - 2008

Ten Years After we flock to BSMT Space, again a cellar, for Dscreet’s first London gig - sorry, show since then. Titled Top 40 Covers, Dscreet presented his painted homages to a variety of musical highlights in a show staged as a music gig and BSMT rocked that night!

drunk girls

That opening Thursday was special for Dscreet on several levels; he appears to be One Hundred Years old and evidently has immense wisdom like his owls but opening night was DScreet’s 40th birthday. The choice of 40 as the key number in the show title will resonate with ancient music fans from the pre digital era for whom everything came to a Grinding Halt at 6pm on Sunday evenings as the Top 40 rundown aired on Radio 1. Claire Grogan was probably not available but a suitable rock ambience was brought to the venue by Brick Lane street musician Lewis Floyd Henry, opening for Dscreet.

Sadly the “phone in the crowd” recording makes this sound crap which completely undersells how hard this dude rocked but there was a lot of rocking going on that night.

Lewis Floyd Henry - Live at BSMT Space

Lewis also has old school pedigree as a proper graff writer, that's the kind of attention to detail DScreet has put into this show.

Rockin All Over The World

Dscreet owls have perched on East London’s walls for years, normally Graffoto likes to pick a few pellets from the archives just to revel in the history and development of the subject artist out on the streets but with Dscreet did Too Much Too Young making such a selection an invidious task.

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Dubl Owl, Howl Owl, Owl and Pussycat (2015)

Of course, not to forget some Brilliant Compositions

Sweet Toof, Cyclops, Dscreet 2007

Cyclops, Sweet Toof, Dscreet, Kid Acne, Seks (TRP), also feat Toasters & Snoe (TRP) (photo 2008)

As his owls are so popular, the fact that Dscreet is a phenomenal graffiti writer is perhaps a little bit overlooked. The owls and the graffiti both featured in this combative collab with Conor Harrington, we loved the blood spurting everywhere and note also the musical reference in the tribute to Adam "MCA" Yauch of Beastie Boys.

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Dscreet v. Conor Harrington, feat RIP MCA (2012)

Dscreeeeeet (2009)

Dscreet (2008)

Although there is a neat link between age 40/top 40 for this gig, the theme isn’t a contrivance for the benefit of a show, musical references have featured frequently in Dscreet’s street art. The tribute to Lou Reed based on the Velvet Underground lyrics to I’ll be Your Mirror is cemented on a Shoreditch wall with a pair of mirror image owls, in the gallery the same song is executed on an actual mirror.

I’ll Be Your Mirror – Top 40 Covers 2018

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I’ll Be Your Mirror/RIP Lou Reed (2013)

Similarly Dscreet has covered The Doors on the streets and in the show.

An American Prayer - The Doors
An American Prayer – The Doors

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Break On Through – The Doors (2015)

In recent months a demonic character has appeared in DScreet’s street art, generally the character, believed to be the artist’s alter ego, is up to no good, some kind of Devil In Disguise.

Dscreet, Pez, Nylon
Identified nutters: Dscreet, Pez, Nylon, (2018)

This demonic character appears in one of the shows highlight, the DScreet visual rendition of the Bob Marley tune Time Will Tell. Bob Marley has also featured in DScreet’s street art, Marley’s classic Three Little Birds become three lurid owls.

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Time Will Tell - Bob Marley

Three Little Birds (2014)

The troublemaker is conjuring flames from the palm of his hands in the unmistakable Firestarter while Dscreet's friend and fellow writer Nylon makes an collaborative contribution.

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Firestarter - The Prodigy - Dscreet & Nylon

BSMT’s cellar space terminates in a pair of vaulted cells which lend themselves to something installational, DScreet blacks out the space and illuminates his characters with a phosphorescent glow evoking that thrill when auditorium lights go down and faint shadows stir indicating stars hefting guitars and adjusting codpieces, that point in a gig where anticipation ends and sonic delivery commences.  Mouseover this pic to see the effect.

Ceremony – Joy Division (guitar) c/w Reign In Blood - Slayer *Mouseover image*

The sexual murmurings on Aphex Twins’ “Windowlicker” translate on canvas into a curiously tilted owl, or at least that’s how it seemed at first glance until longer scrutiny revealed the secret duality in the image, perhaps I have had too sheltered an upbringing as it did take quite a while.

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Windowlicker - Aphex Twin

Talking Heads’ cinematic rock gig film Stop Making Sense (34 years ago? Really???) begins with lead singer David Byrne strolling onto an empty stage with just a guitar and a beatbox, things can hardly get more rock ‘n roll and it’s not a million miles from how Lewis Floyd Henry rocked BSMT. Hanging on the wall is a lone guitar, painted black with the lyrics to Psycho Killer penned on it.

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Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

Mother Sky by Can refers to a droning throb of krautrock sustained by a plodding riff and drug addled lyrics, neatly captured on canvas by an unending psychedelic flow of vaporous digits streaming out of a can, madness I say (as did Can).

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Mother Sky - Can (collab with Eoin)

These owls may have the serious stares of classical music geeks but their spiky hair do screams punk and they don’t get much more OG punk than The Clash.

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Guns Of Brixton (The Clash)

In a list of greatest hits it takes some doing to stand out but among the candidate gig highlights was Dscreet's imagining of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan. The Sabb have of course featured in Dscreet’s street art in his interpretation of Symptom Of The Universe.

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Planet Caravan - Black Sabbath

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Symptom Of The Universe - Black Sabbath (2012)

It was like spotting an old friend to spy an owl from the Words Up show perched in the BSMT Space rafters, which bring us right back where we started from.

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Top 40 Covers, BSMT 2018 - also feat The Look Of Love, I'll Be Your Mirror & Heart Of Glass

Words Up, Pure Evil Gallery (2008)

The history of rock is often forged in grimy downstairs locations, think of the Cavern in Liverpool, the 100 Club in London. Dscreet’s opening was as much an event as it was the beginning of an exhibition of some painted art.  The show must go on (until 1st November). The blues that rocked BSMT Space’s subterranean cellar that night didn’t make anyone homesick.

Lewis Floyd Henry rocks BSMT

Dscreet Facebook
Floyd Lewis Henry website - check that out baby!
BSMT Space website

All photos/phone videos by Dave Stuart

As there is scarcely a more secretive hard to find gallery in London, this pic shows the door into the basement trumpeted by a Dscreet A-board

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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 assembled 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 possibly 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 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 yet to experience the first of the gold plated white gloved Urban Art Auctions (Bonhams, covered 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 12 years down the line?

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 before actual art.

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.[see UPDATE below]

Ironically the attention that this stunt garnered has stimulated speculation that the value of this specific piece has actually soared. Sothebys put out a press release which confirmed that the purchaser is proceeding with completion of the sale, suggesting the buyer certainly seems 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 relic as an artwork. As insurance against someone with a car door fob accidentally reactivating the shredder it would seem sensible if the buyer removed any batteries located in the frame!

Sotheby's press release also had a statement from a Sotheby's 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 reconfigured 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? Thats 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 - Sotheby's

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 Sotheby.s is the now far less iconic but I would argue much superior specimen of Banksy art, Shop Till You Drop.

Banksy. Or Not?  Pt II
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.

Sweet Toof 2017
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.

BSMT Space, Moniker
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