The morning of Sunday, October 12th found me on the subway heading south from Penn Station toward the NYC subway system’s Christopher Street/Sheridan Square Station. Stories in the media claimed that Banksy had come to Manhattan. I was determined to track down signs of the passage of this anonymous graffiti artist.
His spoor wasn’t difficult to find although somewhat different from the usual graffiti murals the artist leaves behind in his passage. The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill, located at 89 Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village, a short walk from Sheridan Square, is an installation piece. Apparently Banksy acquired the store front for the short lived (through October 31st) display.
Two saw horses stood outside ready to provide crowd control on a quiet Sunday with maybe two dozen visitors. In one store front window display a bunny wearing a pearl necklace sat attentively in front of a dressing table and mirror, filing her nails, while several chicken nuggets with feet pecked away at a take-out container of BBQ sauce. Nearby a leopard or ocelot cub balanced on a tree limb, its thick tale dangling.
Stepping inside I was confronted with an animatronic monkey in a cage, its eyes moving and mouth pursing quite realistically, watching a television screen displaying a Discovery Channel show about monkeys. Fish fillets swam in endless circles in a nearby fishbowl, while hot dogs and other assorted sausages crawled about in glass sided cages.
Perhaps most interesting was a wall display of sale merchandise, including canned meats and packages of sliced luncheon meats, including one of my favorites, olive loaf.
What was Banksy up to? The artist explains in The New York Times:
“I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming,” Banksy said in a statement distributed by a publicist, “but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing.”
No, there were no singing nuggets, just a display that felt more like a high school project, receiving a C+ at best. Neither street art nor graffiti, Banksy’s pet shop fell far short of the impact made by his British works. Or is it just me?
I suddenly realized I had never witnessed any of the artist’s work first hand, always before viewing it through the lens of the media with its hype and commentary. Is Banksy an artist who cannot exist outside of the media hype? Whose work has no instrinsic value beyond that granted by fad and fashion? Food for thought, whether olive loaf or chicken nugget.
Related MadSilence posts:
Banksy Cleans Up