There are three Bankys left this month, and today’s work (now there are two left) is in the window of the Housing Works (157 East 23rd Street) thrift shop in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood. The work depicts someone in a Nazi uniform looking out to an idealized view more commonly associated with Sunday painters.
Is this a commentary on Hitler’s thwarted artistic ambitions? Or the fact that the aesthetics of fascism have a lot in common with “pretty” and mundane art? Either way, this is a “thrift story painting vandalised then re-donated to the thrift store,” according to the official Banksy site. And like all paintings, this has a title, “The banality of the banality of evil” (2013). The “banality of evil” is a reference to political theorist Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which documented the trial of a Nazi officer post-WWII. The painting is signed by Banksy and the original artist, “K. Sager.”
Let the store window watching begin!
I’m happy to see that Banksy’s latest work will benefit charity, as they already told Gothamist that they will be putting the work up for auction.
Update, 6:28pm EDT: The bidding has begun.
In other Banksy-related news … in the last day there have been reports of:
- Banksy tattoos,
- activists remixing the British street artist to raise awareness about the NYPD’s role in traffic violence,
- the placement of the Upper West Side Banksy under plexiglass,
- the injury of a man during the removal of a Banksy installation on the Lower East Side, and
- rumors of a renegade Banksy tshirt stand that sold out of items really fast.
Update 2, 8:45pm EDT: The scene this afternoon at 4:30pm at the Gramercy Banksy was pretty subdued. The area has a lot of foot traffic so many random individuals stopped to figure out why people were standing in front of a thrift store taking photos. A gruff security guard would not allow anyone to touch the store window with their hands or camera. “Your camera better not touch the glass,” he told me, and then periodically told people they could not block the sidewalk and had to allow people to walk by. There was a white plastic chain in front of the window on the street, and a woman was selling “souvenir Banksy prints” to the crowd, though she hid her sign and turned away when I tried to snap a photo.
I spoke to a few people who visited the Banksy, including two New York University (NYU) students, Emily Ho and Karolina Laskawiec, who describe themselves as art fans who have been on a “hunt” to find some Banksys.
“I think it is really unique of him to take a painting that has already been created and add his own work to it. And it’s very clever, and switching it up with what he’s been doing all month,” Ho said. “I really like his work, and I think it’s cool that it’s in the city.”
“I’m writing a paper on it, so [I’ve seen] four,” Laskawiec said. “Unfortunately, most of them are covered now.” She also explained that she is originally from Poland and she once traveled to London with friends to see Banksy’s work.
Another visitor standing in front of the Housing Works store window, Ryan, who hails from the Upper East Side, told me he has visited six of Banksy’s recent New York works.
“It has been fun, like a treasure hunt, you don’t know where it will pop up. I’m not a huge Banksy fan but this has been fun,” Ryan said. “If anything, they say other graffiti artists are mad at him but for me I’m sort of taking graffiti in now for the first time.”
A native New Yorker, he explained that he is now noticing graffiti and street art that he has long overlooked. “It just becomes noise in the background and now I look at every little thing,” he said.
I asked him what he thought about the crowds that are forming in front of the works. “I think some people know what’s going on and some people are taking pictures of what others are taking pictures of … it’s a mixed bunch,” he said, and added that he hopes Banksy will create a work in his neighborhood before the monthlong residency concludes.