The Center for Art Law has a thought-provoking piece about the intersection of property rights and Banksy’s “residence” in New York right now. Mayor Bloomberg went on record too as saying he considered graffiti, and implicitly the works themselves, “a sign of decay.” It’s hard to see a court making an exception in New York City for graffiti, no matter what the art world says.
As interesting to me is people’s violent reactions. Some of the works to appear in New York have already been painted over or further defaced, and have been met with scorn. This reminded me of a controversy exactly 20 years ago: the Rock Fan by David Hammons, an installation on the campus of Williams College.
Placed in front of Chapin Hall, at the most prominent gathering place of our quintessentially-New England private college campus, the sculpture was greeted with a surprising amount of anger above and beyond distaste. Shortly before the annual football game against Amherst, someone painted the entire assembly purple. Professor Eugene Johnson memorably called them the “purple idiots,” though Hammons apparently expressed a more guarded reaction.
Are those covering up Banksy defending private property, or this generation’s purple idiots?