When I was doing Art in Year 11, we were asked to look into Banksy, who at the time was a notably popular graffiti artist. Another topic that came with it was the inevitable debate of whether his work is art or vandalism. Two years later, in the twilight of my school years (a.k.a. sixth form), I had to cover the question of “what is art?”, and it was obvious that I wasn’t ready to handle that subject yet. This year, I once again wound up doing a bit of research on Banksy’s artworks on the current art course, and that’s where these topics become related.
Since Banksy uses graffiti to make his artworks, whether or not Banksy’s work counts as art has been the subject of debate. Of course, one must also ask whether or not Banksy should be considered an artist, and in my opinion, he can only be considered an artist in the same way that Damien Hirst can. In either case, he can’t.
Before some of you go ahead and accuse me of being closed-minded, hear me out. Just because you intend to communicate social commentary doesn’t automatically grant your work artistic merit. Besides, the social commentary Banksy tries to communicate is old news. I’m sure we’ve heard Banksy’s brand of left-wing anti-capitalist social commentary from countless documentary film-makers and celebrities.
Besides, Banksy’s merely doing what other graffiti artists could just as easily have done before, but just because his work has been bought and sold by pretentious art collectors who only judge it by face value. Only Banksy can get that kind of reputation, but any other street artist would have to worry about being arrested or getting their work washed away.
I’m not trying to say that Banksy’s work isn’t necessarily art, but the merits of art shouldn’t be based on whether it has been bought and sold, or seen by millions of people in a gallery. In my opinion, art is about bringing the beautiful images from your mind to life. Bansky seems to rely only on the idea that art is about social commentary, which is false.
In conclusion, I don’t consider Banksy to be a real artist, and I never liked the idea of art solely being used to communicate social commentary. I’m aware that there are other artists who may have a similar approach, but probably because Banksy is more popular among art buyers, he gets more attention from morons who don’t know the meaning of art.