Friday, January 03, 2014

Searching for Banksy

Last Sunday, my friend Tom and I went on a graffitti/street art hunting excursion to Newtown, a neighborhood in Sydney. When I was here previously, I had first heard of Banksy, an artist who first got his start on the streets of London and gradually built up a following of his paintings and his subversive installation art. Now his pieces go for millions of dollars. He painted some pieces in Sydney a number of years ago. I meant to look for his artwork when I was here before, but never got around to it, and the piece that we looked for in Melbourne had been disfigured.

Before I returned here, I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film by Banksy that I thought was about him. It turned out to be more about the man who originally filmed him for a documentary -- and asked a lot of questions about what art is, how someone becomes an artist, and whether commercial/pop art is valuable. It's a good documentary and I highly recommend it. And it further fueled my interest in graffitti.

Melbourne is known for its beautifully painted alleyways, but I was surprised to find out how much there was in Sydney as well.

There were lots of murals.

The "Great Wave Mural"

Some pieces made a statement.

Some of it was just art.

Of course, if you remember the pictures of my house, you'll know that one of the things I loved about it was all the colors.

We were photographing this detective when a guy at the house across the street hollered at us.

"Oi! That's an original Banksy, you know." I looked over and the speaker was sitting on the front porch of only what can be described as the Australian version of a frat house. 

"Oh really?"

"Yeah. And there's some really great stuff around the corner. Just up the block."

"Really." I waved my hand in front of my face to avoid getting a contact high.

"Yeah, really. You should check it out. Some cool little characters."

"Okay, sure". Tom and I headed in the direction this guy and his friends pointed. Why not? We had no plans.

So we wandered around the block, taking photos and occasionally saying "So is this what he was talking about?" "I dunno. I think he was just sending us on a wild goose chase because he thought we were tourists".

Suddenly, we realized we were back in front of the Aussie frat house. "Hey, did you find those characters?" our new acquaintance called out.

"Ummmmm, you mean the lego guys?"

"Yeah, they were pretty cool, eh? There's some great stuff around here." His friend piped in "Oh, if you go by Newtown station you can get a tour for $20 and they'll tell you all the history and stuff. It's pretty good." A third guy added "Oh you guys need to go on the other side of King Street. I reckon there's some great stuff over there".

At this point, Tom and I realized that they were actually being sincere and not having us on. They may have been high as kites and unable to give directions (and I find the provenance of the "original Banksy" a little doubtful), but they meant well.

So I asked if I could have a picture with them.

Did I mention they were high as kites?

Tom and I continued on, searching out more art. We stopped to play basketball with a found tennis ball, checked out a food forest, and jumped on some mattresses.

By the end of the day, we were both tired and sunburnt, so we headed back to the city for a drink and to meet our friend David for dinner. On the way, I checked out the site of the Banksy I had been looking for.

That's it! Behind the gray paint on the wall.

It had been painted over! But I guess this kind of drives home what's different about street art: its impermanence. Here today, gone tomorrow. Like life. Enjoy it while it lasts.


Anonymous said...


How cool! I love off-beat finds like this.


Curt Karns said...

Wow, great street art. What fun!

Carlw4514 said...

great to see you having fun!

Uncle C

Andria Crowjoy said...

I love this post so so much. The photo of you and the kites is priceless.

L said...

Dad, it was a great way to see the back streets of Sydney!