How many artists of recent memory have triggered as much interest as Banksy with their art? Sure, people do still talk about the supposed identity of Banksy – a dialogue grounded in the celebrity obsession that gets us digging into the info-trails of every other media personality, but people are actually talking about the art.
They talk about the merits of the art and they talk about the meaning of the art, and the great thing, the reason why I think Banksy should remain anonymous forever, is that the artist doesn’t get in the way of the consideration of the work.
Not, that is, that even Banksy doesn’t play with that notion – the $60 Banksy artworks that slipped by most people question the whole value system we employ to judge art and its worth, and ask questions about how people feel about something when they know it’s by Banksy and when they don’t.
It’s a welcome antidote to some of the YBA celebrity-fest, but the main thing is – it has people looking at and considering art and talking about it. Why? Because it is relevant and it comments about things which need commenting on. I’m sure it wouldn’t be an impossible thing to do if we all knew who Banksy was, but it might be considerably more difficult to disentangle meaning from personality … something that becomes increasingly hard as artists tweet and facebook and blog as much as the next guy.
To some degree it would be a preferable model to the one in existence – to strip out the fame and leave the work to stand by itself. If the work sold the artists would still make money, and people might judge the art on its merit rather than by which artist has the most interesting dirty laundry (I realise I am exaggerating here, and most people would have trouble naming a contemporary artist, but you get the point).