Hipocrasy comes in many forms, but this, this feels artistic. Grossly artistic.
Gross artistic hypocrisy? Is that a thing? If it wasn’t before, it certainly is now. Banksy, the underground rat king of anti-establishment anti-capitalist anti-social street art graffiti, has opened his own online store selling his own indoor art for the masses: Gross Domestic Product, the homewares brand from Banksy, "Where art irritates life."
It's a move that has disillusioned and disappointed a lot of Banksy fans. Many believed that he'd given up and sold out to cash in on his international infamy. But rest easy, dear Banksy lovers, because this graffiti outlaw has a reason for opening this store, and it's a very clever one.
Up until this point, Banksy’s schtick has been unsellable graffiti art. That’s what made his work so precious: it couldn’t be sold, hung in museums or collected; and it is almost always removed, vandalized or covered up within a few weeks of appearing. Banksy’s art is ephemeral, temporary, fleeting; it is powerful and un-ownable. It is street art and it should stay on the street.
“Bus stops are far more interesting and useful places to have art than in museums,” Banksy has been quoted saying. “Graffiti has more chance of meaning something or changing stuff than anything indoors.”
It’s the same reason he built a shredder into the frame he’d used for one of his paintings, Girl With Balloon. The art was auctioned off (for $1.4 million), and no sooner than the bidding closed, the painting slipped through its frame and was sliced to pieces.
Banksy posted a video of the auction, writing, “A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction…”
Naturally, the value of the painting increased because of the stunt. But, regardless, the message Banksy was trying to send was clear: “Fuck your ownership and fuck the arbitrary value you place on my art.”
It was a beautiful statement. And it wasn’t the first time that Banksy had expressed his disdain for selling out and making art to be sold and/or viewed in museums and private galleries.
“When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires…" Banksy has said.
So why has he now opened up his own home décor store? Why is he selling his art to the very art collectors he'd been spiting for so long?
Because assholes have forced his hand. Banksy has been involved in a slew of lawsuits recently, over plagarism and copyright violations; one in particular where a greeting card company tried to sieze legal custody of the name "Banksy." And that was the last straw. He realized that he needed to do something or the identity he'd established would be ripped off of him.
So, he and his lawyer came up with a plan: Banksy would open up a store, selling his own branded art, so that his name couldn't be stolen again, so that his style and name legally belonged to him.
Thus was born Gross Domestic Product (a funny play on words and consumerism), a place where you can get your own Banksy-designed and signed décor for your home, office or whatever. He opened up a temporary showroom displaying the available products and shortly thereafter the GDP website went live.
And even though it's just a legal ploy to defend his art and identity, Banksy, naturally, is working hard to make it legit. The stuff you'll find on Banksy’s site is edgy, artsy and cool. A police riot-helmet-disco-ball; a Union Jack emblazoned bullet proof vest; a cartoonish Tony the Tiger rug; wall mounted toy animal heads; all for relatively affordable prices (considering it is authentic art from one of the most renowned anonymous artists of the modern world), ranging from 10-pounds to nearly 1000.
And the profits? They're not going into Banksy's wallet.
"The proceeds from these products will go towards buying a new migrant rescue boat to replace the one confiscated by Italian authorities," Banksy's lawyer, Mark Stephens wrote. "So you may well be committing a criminal offense by purchasing them."
"We hope to offer something for everyone," Banksy wrote in the Instagram announcement of GDP. "All of these products are hand made in the UK using existing or recycled materials wherever possible. Including the ideas."
It’s some sassy art. And it definitely has the Banksy feel. But can you call it original Banksy street art? Is it really the same thing, as the social statements he became famous for spray painting on city walls? Is it even in the same league?
No. This stuff is like what you’d find exiting through the gift-shop of a Banksy art museum — it’s a sample, a model of “Banksy art” that will look nice in someone’s living room, something for people to brag about to their party guests: “Oh yes, and this is my personal Banksy piece. Signed by the artist himself.”
Nevertheless, the art is all hand made by Banksy. And it's being sold for a good cause — a couple of good causes, actually. When you buy from GDP, you're not only supporting migrant rescues, you're helping Banksy stake a claim on his own name.
That in and of itself is a reason to buy some of this art.