Banksy on Advertising: Guess What? He Doesn't Love It

Feel free to deface the oppressive images, he rants

Hey, I bet you've been wondering what Banksy—the maverick graffiti artist and filmmaker from England—thinks about advertising. Who hasn't?! I'm gonna take a wild stab here and say … he's against it! That would be a logical conclusion based on these potently pissy paragraphs. Banksy's central assertion: "They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small … They are 'The Advertisers' and they are laughing at you." He suggests that "any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It's yours to take, rearrange and reuse," and concludes: "They have rearranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs." On its face, we have a petulant and paranoid screed, defensible but entirely academic, as all the ad-hating taggers on earth working round the clock for a year wouldn't dissuade McDonald's, GM or Coke from putting up a single billboard. (It would, however, be fun to watch the taggers try.) Now, let's peel away the layers of gloppy-paint irony, of which I'm sure Banksy himself is acutely aware. First, a significant portion of his oeuvre leers at folks from tall buildings, the works of an artist who's obsessed with rearranging the world to put himself in front of you without asking permission. What's more, the outsized paintings, anti-establishment rants and mysterious "Banksy" persona serve as advertisements, stoking the artist's fame and fueling interest in shows where his work sells for six figures. I'm not damning the dude as a hypocrite. In fact, I'm praising his marketing sensibility and tactics as works of art unto themselves—they've helped Banksy operate as both icon and outsider, which might just be the ultimate subversion. Art and commerce have always been entwined. The nexus is image and attitude. And Banksy's created a masterpiece. Via Adverve.