Famed graffiti artist Banksy is currently undertaking a month long exhibition of his high-profile creations in New York City. The project called ‘Better out than in’ has seen a piece of artwork revealed each day in the capital, beginning on October 1st with the an image of two children reaching for a spray paint can on a ‘graffiti is a crime’ sign in Manhattan.
As expected the exhibition has attracted a lot of attention in the world’s media, especially as many of the pieces of art have been defaced by the city’s territorial graffiti artists who don’t want the acclaimed artwork on their streets.
From a PR perspective what I found most interesting about the exhibition was the use of what seemed to be an extremely succesful PR stunt on October 13th in Central Park.
Banksy set up a pop up shop, selling canvases for around $60 (£40) each. These original works were created and signed by Banksy, and were on show for all to see as people walked past the stall in the city’s most famous park.
Over the course of the day just three people purchased pieces, with one gentleman buying a piece “just to hang on his wall” and one woman haggling a 50% discount. A total of just $420 was made on the stall and the activity was filmed and distributed to media sources.
While Banksy may have organised this activity as a comment on the over-inflated price of commercial art, for me this definitely seemed to have the dual-effect of working as a PR event. I for one wasn’t aware of the artist’s exhibition in New York until this activity took place, it certainly did a job of spreading the word, Twitter was taken over by New Yorkers gutted to have missed out on bagging themselves a bargain Banksy piece.
Could it be that world’s most highly-acclaimed graffiti artist has got himself a PR agency? His art is definitely more mass-market these days, even catering for the public with an audio guide which can be accessed by dialling the number stencilled next to the graffiti.
PR within art has long been a debated subject, artists feel that their art should speak for itself and that marketing their work degrades them. Was Banky’s pop-up art sale genius PR or purely a piece of art providing a social comment? I’d suggest perhaps a touch of both.
See all of Banky’s NYC instalments here