Banksy’s street view

Flickr photo by JapanBlack
Flickr photo by JapanBlack

The (in)famous and elusive street artist Banksy sold a number of original works in New York City’s Central Park the other day for a fraction of their worth. And I mean fraction.

The works were sold for $60 each — one woman apparently bargained a 50 per cent discount from the unknown older man selling the works — but their estimated worth is in fact closer to $40,000.

I wish I had been there.

Banksy is in New York for a month; he promises to create a new piece of street art every day.

After the stall was taken down, Banksy made this comment in a video posted the next day: “Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100 per cent authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each.”

Unfortunately, this was a one-off deal, even though many of the works remained unsold at the end of the day.

Banksy is a controversial figure — people seem to either love him or hate him — but his allure is undeniable. He somehow marries creativity with social commentary with social spaces. His work goes beyond the walls of museums and showrooms and into the streets, where it becomes a dialogue with the public in public.

Rafael Schacter, author of the recently released book The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, recently told Maclean’s magazine that the power of public art is in its environment: “It’s not just the piece that’s responsible for the beauty of the art, it’s that the piece within the built environment changes the perception of the public sphere itself and makes people look at public space — their public space — in a different way. That is its magic.”

Public space doesn’t need to be limited to physical places, though. Public spaces also include our forgotten institutions and traditions that have become merely part of our environment. These places have lost their magic. But this doesn’t have to be the case; our institutions and traditions don’t have to be destined for the trash dump like old furniture. They can be brought to life.

This is particularly important for Christianity, a religion that promises new and abundant life.

So in light of all this, here’s my opinion on Banksy’s most engaging and critical religious works.

1 . Stained Glass Window

2. Consumer Christ 

3. Losing my Religion (Jesus wearing a Bristol City soccer jersey) 

4. Cardinal of Sin 

5. Concrete Confessional