Falling for the Myth of Banksy

January 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jeopardy! took to the underground art world for a Final Jeopardy! clue last Thursday:

ARTISTS

He said a 2009 exhibit was the 1st time taxpayers’ money was used “to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off”.

A: Who is Banksy?

I had guessed Shepard Fairey. “Scrape them off” made me think of posters and decals, and Fairey, known for his iconic “Hope” poster, would have had prominence in 2009 following the election of Barack Obama the previous November.

More pertinently, Banksy’s identity has been so notoriously protected that I didn’t think the artist would submit to an exhibit, let alone an interview, as long ago as 2009. (Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered in 2010.) The Jeopardy! clue writers assume Banksy is male, but even that could be more persona than person; in this article from last November, Kriston Capps posits that Banksy’s narrative is so methodically controlled that the artist could easily be a woman:

“Since there is so much misdirection and jamming of societal norms with Banksy’s work, as well as the oft-repeated claim no one notices Banksy, then it makes sense,” [Chris] Healey tells me. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”

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