“One hundred thousand people across the world could all say they’re Banksy.”
Banksy is an England based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity, and remains one of the art world’s biggest mysteries. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti and his works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.
AMM Publisher Michael Reiss spoke with long time Banksy confidant, and Curator of the This is Banksy exhibit in Amsterdam, Steve Lazarides.
Michael Reiss: Why is Banksy an important artist?
Steve Lazarides: Banksy made art relevant again.
MR: How how did you first meet Banksy?
SL: I knew all of the old cool Bristol crowd, cause I kind of grew up with him. I heard there was this artist known as Banksy, so I called a couple of people I knew in Bristol and the meeting was made, and I landed up being his photographer. I’d get text messages to go to somewhere, or document a project. And that’s pretty much how the story started.
MR: Tell me about his anonymity?
SL: I think everyone thinks it was this whole marketing ploy. Originally, it was purely and utterly self-preservation, because the authorities in Bristol had quite a Draconian policy towards graffiti writing. It was self-preservation over self-promotion every day of the week.
“I think it’s shameful…It would be like someone stealing from St. Paul’s Cathedral.”
MR: Obviously you’ve met him, know him, and know who he is, so why does he continue to want to remain anonymous?
SL: That I don’t know, that would be something you’d have to take up with him. My thing is, he can now come out and say I am Banksy, and no one would believe him. One hundred thousand people across the world could all say they’re Banksy. It’s the Spartacus syndrome. Who’s to say that one slightly fat idiot over there really isn’t Banksy. Go on prove it! (laughs) Yeah, here I am with all my canvases…Everyone will say, yeah whatever, anybody can make those. I never really thought of that Michael, but it would now be impossible for him to claim being Banksy without being verified by the likes of me and other people that have worked with him.
MR: As portrayed in the HBO Documentary, Banksy Does New York, what do you think of people that take Banksy’s public works and sell it?
SL: I think it’s shameful. I always did. I always will. You know me and Banksy… well, there’s no love lost between us, and him. I still think Banksy should have the right to make something in the street without it being stolen within seconds. I mean, it’s got nothing to do with him. I think it makes the city a poorer place without it. It makes the city a less beautiful place. It would be like someone stealing from St. Paul’s Cathedral.
MR: Thank you for sharing with the Arts Management audience, Steve.
SL: Brilliant mate. Thank you Michael.
During 1999 a young British Artist called ‘Robin’ stayed in Room 5B at The Carlton Arms Hotel in New York City.
The enigmatic graffiti magnate now known as Banksy proved prolific during his residency, painting a room along with his prominent stairwell.
AMM is proud to profile the wonderfully curated, The Art of Banksy exhibit, showing in Amsterdam.