Under PlexiGlass: Banksy and the Assumptions of Value
Since I live in a big city I see my fair share of street art and while I often see things that I admire I don’t often bother to stop the car, get out and take a photograph. It wasn’t that it was a jaw dropping piece of work that stopped me. It was the fact that the art was under plexiglass.
I had heard recently, that the world famous/notorious/anonymous street artist, Banksy was in town. I had also heard that he had traveled on to Las Vegas in recent days but that someone was following around after him to cover the works he had created in yep, you guessed it: Plexiglass.
You see, Banksy’s art is so valuable that people are stealing it right off the wall. It often times doesn’t make it to see the light of day and the latest attempts to protect it are to cover the works. That way, it is safe from other vandalism and it might not get cut out of the wall and stolen right away. So I saw plexiglass and my brain made an immediate assumption that because it was covered this must be a Bansky and therefor it is important. SO stop the fuckin’ car!
When I walked over I also saw this other plexi-covered Oscar piece in the image to the right. It was and is (if it’s still there) an interesting visual commentary on the Oscars or perhaps about placing value on celebrity. Or a comment on the rich and famous, or maybe it was a reference to the actual artist as a trophy. If indeed this was Banksy, his identity alone is valued at around a million dollars. I will let you mull over your own interpretation of the art itself. Is the work as interesting or less if created by an unknown artist? Please do feel free to leave your thought and interpretations of the work in the comments.
I have no idea at first glance if this is or is not an authentic Banksy. I only know that someone has decided it is worth protecting.
Any artist who wanted to imply that his street artwork is valuable, would simply need to cover it in plexiglass. Assumptions will be made. I immediately assumed the art was valuable because it was protected.
Dada artists of days gone by such as, Marcel Duchamp who first placed a toilet seat in a museum and called it a fountain knew, and just like advertisers and many designers know today, context is everything. If you call it art and place it a position of prominence, it becomes art. If you place an object on a pedestal, or put an authentic designer logo on a factory bag or if you put plexiglass over a piece of street art, it causes us to assume its value. It is the fallacious argument from authority for the visual world.
The moral of the story is, that it doesn’t really matter if it is a Banksy at all. Regardless of its origin or authenticity, the work was successful in manipulating our attention. This is also a lesson in how we should be very skeptical of what art, commercialism, advertising and industry try to trick us into thinking has value.
It’s so very easy to believe what is merely implied.