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Can’t Keep It Up

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by Michelle Zis

Ah, I hate those four words. But at least Banksy can get it up; it’s the curators and museum directors who chose not to keep it up. Banksy is a graffiti artist from Great Britain who attacked American soil when he put up artwork in the major New York museums: The Metropolitan, MOMA, Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. He says, This historic occasion has less to do with finally being embraced by the fine art establishment and is more about the judicious use of a fake beard and some high strength glue. Banksy continues, They’re good enough to be in there, so I don’t see why I should wait. Check out his website and you will probably agree with him, he is good. You have beautiful eyes, is the title of the vandalized oil painting in which he painted a gas mask over the face of the classical portrait sitter that hanged in the American Wing at the Met for a few hours before museum staff noticed and removed the painting.

The question arises: If the work is good, why doesn’t it stay up? The truth is that while Banksy makes this institutional critique, the art world is not ready to change the system. Being able to put your own art on the walls still seems too chaotic and is anti-(museum) establishment. Curators would be out of jobs if they could not choose what is on the walls; donors wouldn’t know what to do with the extra Serras they own. And perhaps Banksy would be the most put off. He says that he believes in vandalism: as soon as the art museums accept him, he is no longer a vandal.

May 2005

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