Banksy in New York

31 days of dropping random art installations.

New York touring

Banksy gave a pleasant surprise to residents of the American city of New York in October by touring for 31 days and dropping random art installations every day that he was there. One could call it an exhibition, though Banksy himself called it Better Out Than In. One of the firsts of the new installations popped up close to Chinatown on the first of October, and consisted of a defiant stencil graffiti image of two boys holding the spray can in an anti-graffiti sign. This work was quickly covered up within a day.

The next day, a piece consisting of the words “This is my New York accent” sprayed in stereotypical graffiti font appeared, but this “vandalism” was itself vandalized by a rival artist, as is typical of street art, much to the disappointment of followers of Banksy's work who had traveled to New York to view these surprise installations. On the third, a stenciled image of a dog doing his business on a fire hydrant suddenly appeared, and so similar interesting pieces of street art randomly cropped up across New York city over the next 28 days, culminating in a 3D-style, “bubble letter” tag of his name on a building in Queens on the 31st.

Some of the more elaborate pieces in this informal collection consist of Day 5's work, Mobile Waterfall, which was essentially a diorama of a nature scene constructed in the back of a truck, Night Vision Horses, a complex scene of men battling horses spray-painted onto a car and a truck, and Sirens of the Lambs, an installation made of dozens of stuffed animal lambs crammed into a truck near the meatpacking district.

Not everyone was excited about the event, however. A particularly annoying performance piece, Reaper, which consisted of a skeletal figure robed in black riding around in a bumper car on a concrete platform in the middle of the night and playing loud music for hours on end tested the patience of the locals, who eventually called the police to have the installation removed.

Banksy also seems to have attempted a sort of social experiment. He created several works in his signature style on canvas and had salesmen attempt to sell it from a booth to patrons in Central Park. Somewhat unsurprisingly, only a handful of the works were sold, perhaps suggesting that Banksy's popularity has little to do with the aesthetic superiority of his style, and more to do with other elements of his work, such as its mysterious presentation or the anonymity of the artist.

Banksy reported his exploits every day on Instagram and on a website, commenting on his various works as he revealed them.

Critical reception of Better Out Than In was divided. While fans of Banksy flocked to his work, some critics complained that his work lacked the depth that many attributed to it, and that his art served more to create attention as a “PR machine” than to really express any original thought. Still, some critics did praise his work and its social commentary.

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