Opinion

Banksy’s Clichéd 9/11 Tribute [UPDATE 4]

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Really, Banksy? Today’s street art work, reportedly in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, depicts the Twin Towers but in place of an explosion the artist has placed what looks like an altered flower.

We’ll report back on the location but right now I’m still surprised at how cliché this particular piece seems. Most New Yorkers have moved on from a simplistic understanding of that awful day 12 years ago, and maybe Banksy is trying to hint at some of the complexity here (from dark days flowers grow?), but it largely looks like an underdeveloped idea for a potentially more sophisticated piece. In that regard, Serkan Özkaya’s “Mirage” (2013), which was installed this summer at Postmasters Gallery’s new Tribeca space, was far more successful in its allusions to the Twin Towers and its shadowy presence in our imaginations.

Updated, 12:18pm EDT: According to @kylelibra, it’s at Staple and Jay Streets:

Update, 2:45pm EDT: I finally made it to Tribeca to see the latest Banksy in person and realized that the art work itself may not be the focus of the piece.

Someone had placed flowers by the Tribeca Banksy. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Someone had placed flowers by the Tribeca Banksy. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

People were more solemn than they’ve tended to be around Banksy’s NYC pieces and there was little discussion of the work itself from what I heard. People crouching to take photos looked like they could’ve been in prayer, perhaps remarking on the act of memorializing something itself.

Considering Banksy’s preoccupation with how graffiti writers and other street artists perceive and dislike him, I wonder if the real target of this piece is perhaps the haters themselves? As he explained in a recent “interview” with the Village Voice, “I used to think other graffiti writers hated me because I used stencils, but they just hate me.” Perhaps this is a challenge to the haters to deface the work. Maybe Banksy is probing the extent of the hate and exploring in the process if there are sacred cows even NYC graff writers won’t slaughter. Considering so many 9/11 memorial went untouched for years, I’m curious how this plays out. It’s worth noting that when I arrived this afternoon someone had already placed fresh flowers by the work.

People crouching to take photos look like people in prayer.
People crouching to take photos look like people in prayer.
The scene around the Tribeca Banksy. (click to enlarge)
The scene around the Tribeca Banksy. (click to enlarge)

Update 3, 3:00pm EDT: There’s a second version of the Twin Towers piece in Brooklyn Heights, according to Gothamist, but there’s no flower in site (though the work is also placed similarly on the wall in relation to the wall crack/joint, like the Tribeca version).

Update 4, 7:40pm EDT: And a dog pees on it … awww … (h/t Gothamist)

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