What a weekend. After Friday night’s unveiling of Banksy’s new “Reaper” animatronics art performance on Houston Street, two text-based pieces appeared the following days in Brooklyn, and — surprisingly — they were largely left alone by taggers and haters, while today’s stencil piece of a spray-can-wielding robot has been unveiled in another Brooklyn location, Coney Island (exact location according to Animal: 2812 Stillwell Avenue near the corner of Neptune Avenue in Coney Island).
Judging by the photos, this Banksy seemed rather corny, but in person it actually seemed to work. There was a frenzy around the piece, and it felt very much like watching a Disney animatronic display, with its strange stiffness. But people were very excited to experience the piece. There was a person dressed in black accompanying the grim reaper in a bumper car, and at one point he played an accordion, although for the finale he played a violin. I recorded the final moments of the Friday night performance, which finished at 11pm and not the advertised midnight end time.
One woman in front of me was very into the performance, and she was eagerly watching the Reaper’s ever move, blowing the sculpture kisses and trying to imagine everyone else way. It was the kind of fanaticism you see at rock concerts or in cults.
The Sunset Park Banksy
I arrived at this piece later in the day and was surprised to see it untouched by taggers. When I asked others at the scene why they thought it was untouched, no one had an explanation. The crowd was friendly, and I met one man who has been enjoying the Banksy hunt all month (people are calling them “Banksy hunters”). He said this was only the second one he saw in person (he lives a few blocks away), but he has been following everything else online.
West Street Banksy in Greepoint
People are assuming this piece is in response to the failed New York Times Op-Ed, but I think it’s much deeper than that. In what may be one of the most poignant Banksys this month, the image of this work is undoubtedly going to snake through social media sites and other outlets. “This site” can mean many things, and it’s noteworthy that the piece is on a wall noticeably buffed, so what messages were “blocked” by the buffing?
The mood around the piece was very friendly, and people were having fun with the work. One woman spent 30 minutes taking selfies of herself in front of it, and others were holding up “I AM BANKSY” signs for photos with the work. I interviewed two people who were hanging out by the work.
One, Ariel of Bedford Stuyvesant, who works in media, says she has been visiting all the Banksy sites. “I like Banksy ever since I saw Exit Through the Gift Shop back in 2010, I think. And I think it’s just cool to have everything here for us to see every day, it’s like a free gallery,” said Ariel. “I like it, someone suggested it might be a response to the New York Times, but I haven’t seen it on her website or anything, but I like it, but it’s not my favorite, but it’s cool.”
“To be honest with you, it’s been cool but I’ve been tuckered out throughout this whole process,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve seen all of New York City, and this has given me the opportunity to explore different places. Today, I was thinking, ‘wow they got Greenpoint.’ I live in Bed-Stuy, so I pretty much stay in Bed-Stuy unless I got to go to work, so this really forced me to go about and see places in New York City. I really dig it.”
Another, @sakiwaki, lives in the East Village, and she has also been visiting “a fair amount” of the Banksy sites. “I find [this] really interesting, more specifically because I don’t know if the buff marks were there before and what artists were underneath and messages are blocked and what he means of that,” she said. “In the beginning [of this Banksy residency] I was a little troubled by getting to a site and seeing the masses of people that are there. In one way I feel cheated, and in another way it is art and it is creating discussion — whether you like him or not people are talking about him, so it is a very interesting experience. I am enjoying it, though. It has definitely gotten me out bike riding way more.”
“The other thing is I was talking to my boyfriend, who mentioned it is amazing to see how many people you find on Instagram that have no other photos of street art or graffiti but they have Banksy, so it is appealing to a wide audience, whether you are into street art or not.” she said.
The lack of tagging was noticeable; even this morning when I walked by the site on my way to work, there was little damage (except the transformation of an “o” into a “u”) and the placement of a Lou Reed pumpkin underneath.
Red Hook Banksy Update
Benjamin Sutton, who lives in Red Hook, noticed that the Red Hook Banksy is being removed from the wall!
Update 1, 12:25pm: And the Greenpoint Banksy on West Street is gone …it has been buffed:
Update 2, 4:50pm EDT: I visited the Coney Island site, which is on a busy corner near the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway station. The mood was friendly and a man affiliated with the building, named Anthony, was standing guard by the work.
“We are going to try to preserve it somehow, we’re going to put a roll-down in front of it. I don’t know if it has value or if it’s worth anything, but that’s what I’m being told,” he told Hyperallergic. “It’s a good artist, he’s got talent, but I really don’t understand all the commotion. I have people here from 10 o’clock this morning standing here until now … I feel like I’m missing something.” He explained that the building was family owned.
I also encountered a couple (Victoria Pitula and John Carpowicz) from Coney Island, who were taking time out of their day to visit the site. “I originally same his work in Bristol and I was blown away, and I started doing some research, and bought some books on his, and watched a bunch of movies, and he came to Coney Island for me,” says Pitula.
“I think it’s awesome. I’m more amazed that he was able to get away with it without getting caught. This is a high-traffic area too,” says Carpowicz
“It’s cool, it’s beautiful,” Pitula added.
And finally, one writer from Gowanus, Johanna Goldman, came with her baby in a carriage, and she took time out her day to see the original Banksy.
“I think its cool. I like his whole deal. It’s kind of weird, because … I don’t know, this whole thing … it almost feels like ‘are we being pranked’ I don’t know, because he’s such an interesting and clever artist that I was like, is it weird that I’m getting on a train to see robot graffiti?” says Goldman.
She explained that this was her ‘cultural outing’ with her baby but he was sleeping through it.