Has Banksy Killed Street Art?

A new mural in Detroit makes the controversial claim that big-name graffiti artists such as Banksy have killed street art. The ‘writer’ of this new piece entitled ‘Death of Street Art’ is by the Atlanta-based SEVER, and depicts six figures in the styles of some of the world’s most famous graffiti artists – including Banksy and Obey’s Shepard Fairey – carrying a coffin containing the corpse of street art.

The new artwork has been created as part of The Detroit Beautification Project which has enlisted a large number of high quality street artists, including REVOK (the founder), RISK, STEEL, REYES, DMOTE, WANE, ASKEW and CES.

The alleged sell-out Banksy once travelled to Detroit to create his now-iconic work  that depicts a young boy holding a paintbrush next to the ‘freshly painted’ words “I remember when all this was trees”. The artwork was originally created on the wall of an old car factory, and was salvaged when the building was demolished.

With ever more information about Banksy coming to light – that he has a professional agent to market his work, bringing in celebrity customers, for example – it seems that SEVER has a good case. A recent auction of Urban Art was held at Bonhams saw Banksy artworks make nearly half a million pounds. It featured 17 art works by the internationally renowned graffiti artist, and it was the first time that some of the artwork has been up for auction, with many pieces fetching some serious pre-sale estimations.

Works such as ‘Leopard and Barcode’, which has which has never before been seen at auction, attracted a pre-sale estimate of £60,000 – £80,000, went under the hammer at the high end, selling for an impressive £75,650. But the real show stealer of the night was ‘Girl and Balloon’ – a work painted on the cardboard back of an Ikea piece of furniture. Estimated to go for between £15,000-£25,000, it exceeded all expectations, fetching an incredible £73,250 – that’s five times the estimate!

Alan Montgomery, Urban Art Specialist at Bonhams said that interest in Banksy’s work is still very high: ‘It seems that the public just can’t get enough of him, and his continued anonymity, even following last year’s Oscar Nomination, only adds to his enigma.’

Banksy’s work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road. Most recently the artist has experimented with film, achieving an Oscar nomination for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.

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