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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)

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.

The scene around the Tribeca Banksy. (click to enlarge)

https://twitter.com/littleptown/status/390189277503451136

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)

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

60 replies on “Banksy’s Clichéd 9/11 Tribute [UPDATE 4]”

  1. I’m not sure this is the “Best of Banksy” but I also tend to find artists in general have had pretty weak pieces in reference to NYC 9/11. Including the shadow plane by Serkan Ozkaya’s work. If you watch the people in the room during the video it does not seem to have any effect on their hobnobbing with one another.

    1. The work wasn’t really meant to be seen in a crowd (when the timelapse was shot and it is significantly sped up), when I went back the next day it was a radically different experience and very poignant. I mention that in my review I linked to.

      1. I find it interesting for it not to be meant to be seen in a crowd since the actual day was more then just a crowd experience. If you can get a crowd to have an experience I think the work would have been much stronger.

    2. If you want to see a strong piece about New York and 9/11 that makes people quiet down and pay attention, go see T.J. Wilcox’s video installation at the Whitney and watch the segment where the super of his building recounts his experiences and feelings about that day (no sound, just subtitles). Maybe it’s more powerful because it’s an eyewitness account, and because you’re with him overlooking the part of the city where the Twin Towers no longer stand. As you read his words and in a sense look over his shoulder, it involves you in an act of imagination and visualization. I haven’t given it much thought before reading this discussion, but maybe that’s the difference between a cliched symbol and a richer experience.

  2. eek…that’s what I’d expect to see hanging in a bad hipstery boutique…how do you go from the diorama, to the meat truck, to the art sale to this?

    Or maybe it’s terrible on purpose…just to get a rise out of everyone…

  3. This is beautiful!! everything does not need to be so complex. The message behind it is simple, “Never Forget”!!!!

    1. Yes, but it’s a message we’ve seen over and over again. Banksy is famous b/c he presents art in visually innovative ways–not in ways that have already been covered.

      1. Sometimes you need to shock the world. Not to mention I find so much more in this piece than a simple stencil of nyc skyline, the three dimensionality of new growth over what was, and especially the placement and location chosen. Looking at the photo of the people crouched down taking photos, it’s almost like he has created performance art through his simple mark on the concrete. I think this was very thought out.

  4. Wow,, there are a lot of critics in here. I would like to know where this is artwork is located please. Thanks

  5. I like this one. Upon initial viewing I thought it was a stencil of the towers and one of the plane impact explosions, upon closer inspection I realize its a flower. I felt the gears shift in my emotional reaction – something important to me in art.

    When viewing this residency like a gallery exhibit, this is a small and, in my opinion, thoughtful piece among 14 others. Some grand and amazing, some simple – all of them Banksy and thought provoking.

  6. Isn’t the flower meant to be double-coded? Obviously it’s a thing you leave at a memorial, but it’s also a representation of the first explosion.

    That said, it seems a little wan compared to his other work.

  7. Question for the author, Hrag: for this piece to be Cliche, it would have had to be done before. Have you seen this take by other artists previously?

  8. It works as dual metaphor and the revelation that it is a flower after it reads at first as an explosion is mildly clever. I don’t see it as a cliche.

  9. I think you need to think more Dada regarding this piece, especially in reference to the street art he was selling for pennies. How can you forget the theme of anti-establishment in reference to graffiti tagging?

  10. Perhaps Bansky intended it to be obvious. I think so. We’ve gotten to the point where how we honor and remember is very removed, very sterilized from what actually happened. We have gotten to the point where the pain has been removed,- not healed but removed- when perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Picasso’s Guernica doesn’t get flak for being very straightforward about it, and neither should this. It’s small it’s tiny it’s not a giant in your face memorial. Also, why must everything have a deeper meaning?? “from dark days flowers grow?” you’re stretching. the flower is an obvious choice to represent an explosion- flowers explode into color, are texturally interesting, and frankly this one looks and feel appropriate. It doesn’t register as A FLOWER but as A FIERY EXPLOSION- round in shape, pointed pedals convey destruction, the orange red yellow all shout fire…

    Some days good art is ruined by over rumination and the attempts to find a deeper meaning that never existed there in the first place. sometimes an artist- even a social commentator as Banksy- feels the need to create a simple message. Why not just let that be?

    1. Flower = explosion. I agree. The meaning will vary for every viewer, just as the meaning of all art should.

  11. One interesting thing to watch. Since there are so many people out there trying to get cheap fame by dissing a Banksy piece. Will anyone have the balls/be so stupid to diss a 9-11 tribute piece?? For the record, I hope not.

  12. After 911 the US invaded Iraq which had nothing to to do knocking down the towers.

    Now its being reported that Iraqi civilians are having birth defects due to the US Military’s use of depleted Uranium. This is of course after our leaders play the moral highground about using chemical weapons.

    So go ahead, keep talking about the stencil w/ the flower. The most cliche thing about all of this is people not giving a damn about what’s going on.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/jan/11/qanda.armstrade

  13. Something no one has mentioned yet:

    There are buildings in the background that are ethnic, especially to the left, the rounded one. I think this has a lot to do with the self-importance of the Twin Towers in relation to the rest of the world, where so much else is going on every day.

          1. I considered that, but I think it’s a tad too exaggerated. Who knows though, we can only speculate. My interpretation of it was the overshadowing of the towers in comparison to everything else around it. Could simply be seeing what I think is a poignant meaning.

  14. um,
    why is this cliche? i like it. like i like the rest of banksy’s work.
    who are they to criticize him anyway? he is an artist and says what he
    says. now all of a sudden these critics have a better artistic
    sensibility than him. maybe they just have unresolved issues with 911
    and cant appreciate ANYTHING that touches on the subject.

    1. “These critics”? Maybe you can be more specific. Generalizations don’t help much when people are saying different things. My problem with it is that it is not enlightening and doesn’t do anything with the subject that hasn’t been done a million times.

      1. well at this point, by these critics, i mean you. what kind of **new spin*** were you hoping for with this subject?

        1. I’m not really looking for a spin, but, like I said in the post, I think it feels undeveloped. It may have had a kernel of an idea but I don’t think this was the best way to express it. Feels really flat.

          1. well, my original point stands. imo, thats you, not banksy. you want more. well? guess what? trauma and tragedy are stark and leave you hungry for explanation and closure that never come. i think the simplicity of it is perfect.

          2. lulz. you think i am projecting something into the art that isnt there? i thought you were an art critic…. are you aware of how art works? objective meaning is usually reserved for science…. yes, lol, we’ll have to disagree. that tends to be how it works with art. if you think there is a right answer, its not surprising you are a critic, and not an artist.

          3. Actually, you’re the one who thought there is a right answer. I said we disagree and I was fine with that, but then you tried to put me down by saying “its not surprising you are a critic, not an artist.” Which is a silly statement based on some personal bias you have against critics. It also suggests to me that you’re very insecure about disagreeing with someone and leaving it at that.

  15. If you want to see a strong piece about New York and 9/11 that makes people quiet down and pay attention, go see T.J. Wilcox’s video installation at the Whitney and watch the segment where the super of his building recounts his experiences and feelings about that day (no sound, just subtitles). Maybe it’s more powerful because it’s an eyewitness account, and because you’re with him overlooking the part of the city where the Twin Towers no longer stand. As you read his words and in a sense look over his shoulder, it involves you in an act of imagination and visualization. I haven’t given it much thought before reading this discussion, but maybe that’s the difference between a cliched symbol and a richer experience.

  16. I think it’s a little tongue in cheek. And the fact that he makes viewers squat to look at it– There’s more here than meets the eye. Incidentally, I think all of the NY residency pieces are tongue in cheek in different ways. The 9/11 tragedy is monumentalized in the heart and minds of many in many different ways, and this almost seems like a comment about that. He has done the opposite of monumentalizing it here and has instead relegated it to this pint-sized memorial complete with Hallmark greeting style accoutrement. I don’t know what the exact comment is here, but it is interesting nonetheless.

    1. Could it be that the 9/11 event brought the US to it’s knees and he is reminding us that we will not be able to stand strong until we become humble again ourselves?

  17. banksy is very much a reflection of our current culture: boring, numb, unemotional and devoid of any style — this is why he is so infamous, not because the work is superb. he’s a puppet show for the simple minded.

  18. I think the guy who stole the flower off of the Brooklyn Heights piece will get more of a reaction than Banksy himself. And I would hate to be the woman who allowed her dog to piss on it.

  19. I think your problem was thinking a graffitti artists of his stature is inherently profound. The dude made serious waves and will never be forgotten, but I never subscribed to him as an artistic genius or anything. Maybe that’s your problem

  20. It’s pretty obvious your grasp on the definition of cliché is lacking at best, this article is essentially a compilation of drivel. I leave this garbage only content in the fact that I wasted less of my life reading it than you did “writing” it, and since no comment is complete without a healthy dosage of constructive criticism, I’d suggest you pick a different career path, unless you’re satisfied living your life basically surrounded by pitiful mediocrity.

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