Saturday, 25 May 2019

New Old Banksy Street Art In Shoreditch

Banksy street art hidden for many years has been brought out of limbo in Shoreditch, visible at last to the millions of street art fans new to Banksy’s art since it last doused itself under East London rain. Two images, a huge rat and a TV being chucked rock star style out of a window have lain out of sight under protective wooden sheeting for 12 years though they are perhaps among the more “storied” of Banksy’s street artworks.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Not one but TWO Banksy relics

Banksy frequented the legendary Shoreditch art and drinking establishment The Foundry, pincered between Great Eastern St and Old St and was a good friend of the hosts Tracey and Jonathan Moberly. Tracey told Graffoto that from around 2002 Banksy was very active inside, outside and around the Foundry, in that period he painted genuine masterpieces such as the Have A Nice Day helicopter above the chip shop opposite Foundry and the earliest of the Pulp Fiction pieces that faced the Foundry from the tube station building 100 yards away.

Old Street feat Banksy
Old St feat Banksy's 2nd Pulp Fiction

The Foundry was an amazing melting pot bringing together creative, cultural and cool people and stimulated all kinds of interactions. Courier cyclists were a specific sub-species who made a base at the Foundry and some evenings (particularly warm ones!) the pavement outside the foundry would be a crush of grimy bike couriers. It was a group of cyclists who organised the festival in the unlicensed car park to the rear of the Foundry for which Banksy painted the rat and the TV.

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Banksy feat remnant of "Last Days Of Shoreditch", Eine, photo 2019

In 2010, Hackney Council had a pretty hostile attitude to graffiti and was equally intolerant of street art, as the Moberly’s witnessed with the council’s repeated buffing of great art that appeared legally with permission outside the Foundry. The council then turned round and made the preservation of the TV and the rat a condition of the planning consent for the demolition of the existing building and its replacement by what was to be an 18 storey hotel but now has permission for 22 storeys. Should these Banksys have been elevated to heritage status?

Eine, Foundry Car Park
Protect that rat 2019 (clue: underneath that wooden wedge)

The TV out the window stencil, a brilliant rock and roll cliché, looked like it was made for that wall, it’s an image that has to be on the side of a windowless building that looks like it ought to have windows. The image wouldn’t work on say a garden wall or a bridge support.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park

Inside the Foundry all kinds of crazy things went on and prominent in the bar was a array of flickering TVs, a TV flying out the window from the Foundry seemed entirely plausible.

Foundry Photo Jonathan Moberly, 2010
Foundry 2010: Graffoto, anonymous street artist, Tracey Moberly and a selection of TVs. Photo courtesy Jonathan Moberly

The TV out the window makes an appearance in Banksy’s 2005 book Wall and Piece but is not the Foundry one, the one in the book was up by Angel and by the time I located it the TV had been buffed (higher up the wall above this image) but Banksy’s tag was still visible and Shepard Fairey had visited.

Banksy tag, Shepard Fairey, 2006
Banksy tag, Shepard Fairey, 2006

Not only is the Foundry TV nicely placed and well executed, it has a Banksy tag next to it and they are increasingly rare out in the wild. In fact including this one I can only think of 3 surviving outdoors in London and we must fear for the existence of one of the other two as there is an artist’s impression of a development which shows the surface the tag is on is earmarked to disappear.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Banksy stencil tag

The rat has always been a bit unsatisfactory, the reasons Graffoto criticised the council’s decision to preserve that rat are as valid today as they were back in 2010. It has never been clear what this rat is about, it rejoices in the nickname “Eat the rich” and is often described as a rat with a knife and fork but if you look carefully that is actually a jigsaw blade not a knife and the fork is more like a harpoon or a pitchfork, forks don’t neck down from the handle then widen into the prongs. We don’t know what the rat is doing, why it belongs at this location nor what the red ring around the eye is about and the technique is a bit sloppy. The things that look like fins are probably meant to be bedraggled fur, at least that’s what they look like on other Banksy rats but on this one it looks like a weird dorsal fin or the conning tower on a submarine.

Banksy Rat - Go Back To Bed, photo 2006
Banksy rat - that's what we call bedraggled, photo 2006, Smithfelds

However Banksy’s street art isn’t diminished by poor execution, they were never meant to be superb specimens of perfectly executed art and indeed evidence of haste is perhaps part of the essence of the way Banksy has to create his street art. Banksy’s relationship with the Foundry and the use by the Foundry of that car park to stage events suggests this rat probably wasn’t subject to the usual tensions of illegality, perhaps it could have been better executed, maybe like the ones in Cargo.

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park

More significantly, Banksy hated the rat! Tracey whispered to Graffoto last year that Banksy thought the rat was a piece of shit. Furthermore, when asked to comment on the closure of the Foundry in a 2010 BBC news broadcast, Banksy contributed via one of his classic emails saying

“No one ever went there for the beer-it was always a bit warm and flat. I would appeal to the developers not to keep my graffiti. It’s a bit like demolishing the Tate and preserving the ice cream van out the front.” 
Banksy, Newsnight email 4 Feb 2010”

There you have it, the artist Banksy does not wish the art to be preserved so the council’s 2010 decision is morally dubious to say the least. Note also the explicit confirmation that the artwork is a genuine Banksy, assuming of course that the BBC weren’t being spoofed.

Preservation of these Banksy pieces began before the planning decision though. The protective sheeting enclosing the TV and rat was erected in 2007, perhaps the idea of incorporating the Banksys on the Foundry site into the new hotel had already formed in the owners’ and operator’s minds at that time.  An early painting of that slanting façade was by Burning Candy members Sweet Toof and Cyclops, wittily captioning their creation Rat Trap.

Burning Candy
Sweet Toof, Cyclops BC 2008

The immediate future for the rat and the TV is that metal frames are going to be constructed around them and after separating the wall from the rest of the building structure and dismantling the walls above the art by hand, a massive crane is going to be used to lift the two wall segments separately over the building where they will be stored covered up at the front of the building site. The developers have not made their ultimate intention clear, their obligation is to provide free viewing access to the public of these two Banksys either within the hotel or somewhere else within the Borough. The developer is known to have planned to include 6 other Banksys from the Foundry building within the so-called Art’otel development but none of the other 6 survive.

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First, skin your rat

A few weeks ago Graffoto got an exclusive opportunity to watch the sheeting came down and the TV and rat were seen again for the first time in 12 years. As the sheets came off the first thing that appeared was the top parts of the old fire extinguisher ATG tag and it was immediately apparent that he paint had survived in pretty good condition.

ATG Fire Extinguisher Graff; EINE

After barely an hour of watching other people do real work, the TV and the rat were revealed in all their glory

Banksy at the Foundry Car Park
Banksy Rat (detail) 2019

For the meantime, make the most of the brief period visibility of those two Banksys before they lose whatever sense of context they may have had in their original location and ponder the puzzle of why the council decided to preserve this rubbishy rat against the artist’s own wishes yet remain oblivious to some real masterpieces that appeared on the Foundry building before and since.

Elmo, Tango ATG & Banksy
Elmo lean-over, Tango ATG - and Banksy. You decide!

Elmo, ATG
Elmo ATG, Goldpeg, Sweet Toof & the buff 2011

Elmo, Milo Tchais, Zezao, Tek 33
Elmo, Milo Tchais, Zezao, Tek 33; Feb 2011

ROA, 2011 (okay, it's a different elevation but its too good not to include as art that the council has not protected)

Elmo, Masker, Milo Tchais, Run, Zezao, Gerard Gademann
Elmo, Masker, Milo Tchais, Run, Zezao, Gerard Gademann; May 2011

Elmo, Mr Wany, Masker, Zezao
Elmo, Mr Wany, Masker, Zezao 2012

Mr Wany
Mr Wany, desecrated by an advert, 2012

Jo Peel
Jo Peel animation, 2013

Fintan Magee
Fintan Magee (detail) 2014, also feat Eine, Pez, ALO, Borondo

Phlegm, 2015

Eine last days of shoreditch
Eine, 2016

Related Posts:

2010: Hackney Council insists on rat/TV preservation Graffoto post

2018: Foundry/Red Gallery Building closes Graffoto post

All photos: Dave Stuart except Jonathan Moberly where noted      

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Diane Arbus v. Kader Attia v Art World Control and Paranoia

Diane Arbus: In The Beginning
Kader Attia: The Museum Of Emotion

Hayward Gallery, London
13 Feb – 6th May 2019

I visited two exhibitions by accident recently. I wanted to see Diana Arbus at the Hayward but the admission price covered a second exhibition, The Museum Of Emotion by French artist Kader Attia.

Kader Attia

Arbus was unexciting, street photography often is. Beyond the intrusion into personal space, the gaze held, the gesture frozen, the monochromatic contrast of black void and sunlit glare and the nostalgia for bygone times lost there is generally a sense of immortalising mundanity. There are a few haunting exceptions for which Arbus is justly famous.

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Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962, © The Estate of Diane Arbus LLC, Courtesy Jeu de Paume, courtesy source: Metropolitan Museum of New York

Next time someone holds you up trying to use their wristwatch to get through the tube barrier, try not to think of that famous boy with grenade.

Attia on the other hand stopped me in my tracks right from the projection in the first room. Attia freewheels through a variety of themes; immigration, control, colonialism. It was exciting and also incredibly photogenic.

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The experience of viewing the two shows was significantly different, Diane Arbus involved reading glasses and nose-to-glass scrutiny; Attia was your varifocal panorama viewing. Yep, that’s my Mk I eyeballs not up to much these days.

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Entering the Diana Arbus we weren’t wished a good day or enjoy the exhibition, we were told quite firmly “no photography”. However in the Attia exhibition you can take photographs as long as you don’t use flash they said, so with the iphone duly blessed we snapped some lovely flicks of this skilfully staged show.

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The thing that leads to those different rules and regs in the two shows lies in the ownership of the art. Nearly all the Arbus images were lent by institutions, donated by trusts or owned by collectors whereas the Attia exhibition attributes ownership as “courtesy artist”, the art (mainly) came from the artist himself.


It boils down to control, or is it paranoia? Maybe they (owners, curators etc in general) don’t want the images to be misused artistically but you can’t help feeling that their key fear is unlicensed financial exploitation. It could be as simple as possessing your own wonky badly lit photo taken in the gallery makes you may be less inclined to buy the book. Art world savants seek to protect their return on their investment and mobile phone photography doesn’t ring the tills in the gift shop.



Attia on the other hand has a message or two to convey through his art and indeed has given detailed notes explaining the artowrks, so why block the normal natural channels for disseminating those meanings. Photography and social media is the very heart of sharing. It also helps to build the buzz, you are reading a few thoughts about two exhibitions,something that you can’t really call a review without doing serious bodily harm to the dictionary definition of that word, you the reader can only visualise one of the shows as it is illustrated with consensual images.


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So back to how this reflects into the world of street art, the street art gallery is almost entirely artist curated. Notwithstanding the tiny proportion of commissioned street art out in the wild, the vast majority of street art is displayed courtesy of the artists themselves. Street artists deciding what to put up, where, on what kind of surfaces, when and how much. They start with full control but following the act, their control becomes almost zero and their art can be seen and photographed for free.

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Control once the art is out on the streets is almost but not absolutely zero, artists can expect to retain rights to their image. Just because they share it on the streets does not mean they waive their legal copyright in the image, though that is a point you might need to discuss with a suitably specialised lawyer, should you really not want to not do anything interesting with your life ever again. Is it likely that fundamentally the legal rights of art world gallery artists on image control are pretty much the same as street artist have, those stupid controls imposed in the gallery are in affect your implicit agreement to respect that control in exchange for being allowed to enter the gallery. If you look closely, you will see that graffito bears very little resemblance to a qualified firm of lawyers so this could all be bollocks but the fundamental question is why the fuck do galleries feel compelled to prevent photography.


I thought this was one exhibition for the price of two but it turned out to be two for the price of one, I would definitely pay for Kadar Attia’s exhibition, maybe you can see why. Reading this photo free review fails to give you any reason to visit the Diane Arbus exhibition.

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Finally, just to avoid any wrong impression, some of the Kader Attia art was catalogued as being held in private collections or institutions, one can only guess that it was a condition for inclusion in the exhibition that photography be permitted.

Reflecting Memory (2016) (phantom limb syndrome)

All photos: Dave Stuart