Cristina NualART

Tag: Legal

Exit Banksy, enter Swoon

I finally saw Banksy‘s film Exit through the Giftshop, now on show in only one London cinema. Glad I made it to the big screen before it becomes just another DVD.

47_Swoon_photocnualartIt is really a good watch – tons of fun! I love the amusing turn of events that mess around with your preconceived ideas of who is the protagonist.  At first, your wishes are granted and you get lots of footage of street artists at work, and you naturally expect plenty more footage on Banksy for the main part of the film. But before I tell you what happens, I have to put Banksy on pause, to digress about Swoon, one of the street artists at work in the first part of the film, and the only female one. Swoon, as coincidence would have it, is currently featured prominently in this month’s Art News magazine, for her ‘sailing’ artspedition.

I first came across her work  in an exhibition in Village Underground, East London, last year (pictured). The Thousands was the mysterious title given to the week-short show by the very young curator. 18 year old RJ Rushmore was kind enough to give me an hour of his time to tell me about the stunningly well-light display of street art from around the world in the not-so-underground, superb space. Rushmore is a collector of Swoon and of other figureheads of street art, and some of the artworks in the exhibition were of his collection. He knows these artists first hand, from his childhood days hanging out in both London and New York, encountering the artists at work in teenage infested wastelands and alleyways. They way he told me about it all, I’m guessing that he started collecting with little cash, whereas as we see in the film, street art is now big bucks. Moral: it’s good not to be metrowealthy and grow up in plush, cleansed neighbourhoods, if the vandalism you would otherwise encounter can be turned into gold – and celebrity status. My hat off to the teenage curator/collector for utilising his life experiences to his advantage. And my hat off to Swoon for her skilfully crafted cut-outs and paste ups. She’s worth keeping an eye on.

As for Banksy, he is very clever, as well as skilled. His Guantamo Bay interventions in Disneyland are as funny as the reactions of the Mickeyguards when they discover them. See him also transform a beautiful red phonebox into an equally beautiful, and humorous, sculpture, with meaning appropriated by BT… (if, like me, you’re into red telephone boxes, check out David Mach’s sculpture in Kingston-upon-Thames).

After this exhilarating spur of live artmaking (including -and yes, I disapprove- a live, painted elephant) the way Banksy turns the film around, (by way of ‘revenge’?) is better than fiction. The cameraman and the street artist swap places, and the unexpected outcome brings about a sad-but-hilarious real-life take on the art world. Possible ponderings revolve around the power of money, of advertising, of using your friends because the ends justify the means, of the American dream, of madness or of sheer willpower. Definitely lots to think about, but smiling most of the time. Respect!


P.S.: A really interesting piece of research on the legal quandaries implicit in graffiti:
Tomasz Rychlicki, ‘Legal questions about illegal art,’ Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (Vol. 3, No. 6, 2008) pp. 393-401



After many industry efforts to ban it from the internet,
I finally got to see it:  Logorama, the film.

Oil as the end of capitalism… It is brilliant!



MichaelLandy_photocnualartI find it difficult to reconcile the fact that it’s increasingly OK to take photos in art galleries, where it used to be a big no-no, but less in public places. For example, the Saatchi gallery has no restrictions whatsoever on the public taking photos. Yes, they could well afford to sue you for everything you’ve got if you breached the copyright of the artist, not that your art selling skills are a match to theirs, so you won’t get rich quick that way, will you? I mean, could you really sell that fake painting you just made with your digital photo of the original for millions? So if the average gallery goer can’t, then Saatchi has the right attitude, let them take photos. Bless em, they can’t have the real thing, they can make do with a wee reproduction on their laptop… Most of us taking photos there just want them for our blogs. If your blog gets loads of hits, well that’s free advertising for the artist and gallery. If it doesn’t, then who cares? It can only count as ‘personal use’.

But rules about taking photos are becoming stranger. During the Anish Kapoor exhibition, the Royal Academy staff would only allow photos to be taken with a mobile phone. I had to show the invigilator that I had a whole load of phone numbers in the machine before he let me use it, but after I proved that it was a phone and not a camera, I clicked away happily. So why the fuss? I’m still trying to work it out.

The most bizarre account was when earlier this week I visited Michael Landy’s ‘Artbin’ installation in the South London Gallery. I pulled out my camera from my handbag as I would have pulled out my ringing phone, thinking nothing of it. After all, this was a ‘rubbish bin’ I was about to capture. But as if by magic a polite gentleman materialises in front of me and tells me I can’t take photos because the artists who made the works in the bin (which are, therefore, rubbish to be disposed of – this is a monument to ‘creative failure’) have not given their permission. I don’t get that. An artist has given away a work for it to be destroyed (a ‘creative failure’), but has given it away knowing that in some bizarre way the work will be ‘exhibited’ (if you can say that of a work chucked into a transparent skip), so being exposed to view. Yet the assumption on the gallery’s part is that the artworks must be protected from photographs. I fail to see the logic? The act of binning a failed work into Michael Landy’s bin is an act of exhibitionism, of exposure, of clinging on to the fame of a reputable artist before the big apocalypse wipes the ‘bad’ artist/artwork out of existence. The destruction is preceded by a complete revealing of the work to the public. It’s a confession on a deathbed. The artists who have ‘contributed’ have their name placed on a list, which of course, is also public. Would taking a photo of the work embarrass the artist? The artists have overcome the embarrassment of admitting creative failure by donating in the first place. It’s public, it’s official. But it must not be visually recorded…

My perplexity lies in the fact that I am of an age and culture in which you learnt that artworks were sacred and should not be touched or photographed. As we’ve moved into the I-will-air-my-dirty-linen-in-public generation (thanks to Tracey Emin, blogs, camera-phones and social networks), that has changed. Interactivity rules. But whilst art galleries may be moving with the times and accepting that viewers will take photos, the Big Brother is deciding for us that maybe we should not, and certainly not in public. See this article in last week’s Sunday Times.

In any case, not to offend anyone, I have digitally blurred the artworks in this photo of Michael Landy’s Artbin (taken before the kind gentleman asked me not to):


Although I love the artbin idea -that not all artwork is great and some artworks just don’t end up looking as wonderful as they did in your mind’s eye- I was disappointed that the exhibition did not include the destruction. I asked Michael Landy himself about this, since he was around. He explained that the gallery was going to be in charge of the destruction, as from Monday 15th March 2010. The gallery would shred canvas and dispose of the rest of the junk. Although I understood his rationale, he wants to show the failures, but is not interested in how they are terminated, I felt a little bit cheated. I’ll get over it, though, I know what a bonfire looks like. I just learnt yesterday that Roald Dahl held a weekly bonfire outside of his writing hut where he burnt the drafts (written with a good ole graphite pencil) that preceded success.


Banksy / Exit through the Gift Shop


I was one of the 300.000 people that, last summer, went to the west of England, to queue for 4 and a half hours (which was the average waiting time every single day) to see the Bristol City Museum’s Banksy exhibition. Long drive, long queue, but it was worth every minute (and I’m not good at idle time-wasting, so enough said).

The queuing was one of those situations where people let their solidarity out, to help their neighbours with shopping, food-sharing, newspaper swapping, toilet-break space minding, etc. A lovely communal spirit overtakes the crowd, united in its goal of sharing the rare art experience. I met a skint student who’d come down all the way from Leeds, and planned to return there later in the day – can you get 25 hours in one day? There was a couple who had come all the way from South Africa just to see the exhibition, but they were quite happy to add in a few days to their trip for a holiday in England. Such a fan club! An invisible and unknown artist with the pulling power of a rock legend, don’t you love the times we live in?

The show was excellent, with playful winks all over the place. I couldn’t stop smiling and going: ‘oh, wow!’ Starting with a wild garden party, rocking policemen and all,  the exhibition covered the working methods of stencilling (other artist always want to know about techniques), the range of artworks Banksy is proficient in, and the full-range of backdrop contexts. Brilliant!

It’s hard to tell what is myth and what not, in this uber-legendary mystery. However, I trust the museum staff that admitted that they hadn’t met Banksy, because the whole hanging had been done in secret. I even believe, as they told me, that Banksy had added interventions throughout the museum several times after the show had opened. All, of course, surrounded by the utmost secrecy and puzzlement. Did Banksy have the keys? I mean, how did he get in? It was a Banksy show, it had to be vandal-proof!

Maybe some of the myths will be dispelled when I see ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’, the documentary film opening this weekend.

In the meantime, here is another sample of the humour, the techniques and the ideas of subversion of the artworld that Bristol Museum had to offer in abundance:




Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2017 Cristina Nualart

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