Disclaimer: this review is not authorized by Will Ellsworth-Jones, his agent, or his publisher (St. Martin’s Press). It is also not authorized by Bank...moreDisclaimer: this review is not authorized by Will Ellsworth-Jones, his agent, or his publisher (St. Martin’s Press). It is also not authorized by Banksy or Pictures on Walls, and has not been authenticated by Pest Control.
Seems like a lot of legalese to go through just to post a review, doesn’t it? The hoops one must go through to sell the wall Banksy painted for you when you were both up-and-coming street vandals is similarly rife with legal complications. Has it been authenticated by Pest Control? If not, many buyers won’t go near it. Did Banksy want it to be sold? If not Pest Control won’t authenticate it. There are so many complicated issues involved in buying, selling, and showing Banksy’s work. Will Ellsworth-Jones does a marvelous job of outlining these issues. He points out how almost ludicrous it is that Banksy’s ‘outsider art’ is shown at the Tate and brings in tens, if not hundreds, of dollars. Yet the author does so without being at all anti-Banksy.
Banksy (whose identity is a closely guarded secret) started doing graffiti in Bristol in the 1980s. He has since become known as a stencil artist, has started making prints of his work, and makes a fair bit of money. Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall is not, though, an art book. There are a few photos, but they are very few. The book is about Banksy, his rise to fame, and how he straddles the worlds of outsider art and posh art galleries. It’s a delicate balance and many question whether Banksy is, or should be, straddling those two worlds successfully.
Banksy is currently an entire business machine. He has a business (Pictures on Walls), a manager/PR organization/authentication service (Pest Control), he puts on huge exhibits, and he makes a lot of money. What he doesn’t do, though, is make endorsements or design for corporations. Does this make him less of a sell-out, or does that fact that he has a business machine behind him guarantee that he’s a no longer an outsider? Ellsworth-Jones says of Banksy’s team, ”The more I examined this team, not just the team that is ready when he needs help with a big project, but also the more permanent team protecting his reputation, his commercial rights, his prices, the more it became clear that he functions in much the same way as any commercially successful artist would – albeit outside the traditional gallery system. And it is perhaps this fact, the fact that in many ways the outsider is now an insider, rather than any real worry about his identity, that this team – which makes very few mistakes – is so determined to hide.” Even Banksy himself struggles with this issue. In an interview from Time Out magazine, he said, “I wouldn’t want to be remembered as the guy who contaminated a perfectly legitimate form of protest art with money and celebrities. I do sometimes question whether I’m part of the solution or part of the problem…There’s obviously nothing wrong with selling your art – only an idiot with a trust fund would tell you otherwise, But it’s confusing to know how far you should take it.” This selling-out issue gives Ellsworth-Jones plenty of fodder. He could have written an entire diatribe just around this issue. And people have. But he goes beyond that to give a balanced and nuanced portrait of Banksy, his work, and his genre. He certainly demonstrates an appreciation for Banksy’s art. He writes, “the images…make us admire him, make us laugh and make us think, not so much about what the painting means but about the subjects he as taken on.” For Banksy’s work is, indeed, protest art. It’s meaningful yet accessible (and as with poetry, there a great deal of heated discussion in the art world about “accessible” art). Kate Brindley, formerly of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, says of his work, it’s “…smart, it’s intentioned. It’s political, it’s humorous. It’s current. It’s site specific. It’s universal. He thinks very carefully about it but there is also a lightness and playfulness which I really enjoy about it.”
These descriptions make me interested in Banksy’s work, but Ellsworth-Jones’ book succeeds in making me interested in the entire field of graffiti/protest art. Well done. (less)
This book makes me want to add a shelf for "beautiful, luminous, loved it."
Oliver writes so plainly, drawing us in and commenting simply and beautifu...moreThis book makes me want to add a shelf for "beautiful, luminous, loved it."
Oliver writes so plainly, drawing us in and commenting simply and beautifully on experiences. I've been reading the poems at breakfast, which is the perfect time to read them. Not all of the poems are about mornings, but they're refreshing, and a good start to the day.(less)
I love love love Mucha - he is by far my favorite artist. I love the way he blends the organic with the geometric, I love the fanciful, romantic, swir...moreI love love love Mucha - he is by far my favorite artist. I love the way he blends the organic with the geometric, I love the fanciful, romantic, swirly details. Art Nouveau (his genre) is much warmer than Art Deco, which followed. It is clearly a precursor to Deco, as it introduces a more geometric, repetitive form.
This small book of photographs includes a biography and information about his work. The photographs will appeal to anyone who has seen and appreciates his work, as many of them served as models for his art. I found it fascinating to see the differences and similarities between what he actually saw (as represented by the photographs) and what he drew. An excellent companion to something like Figures Decoratives or The Art Nouveau Style Book.(less)
When did fiction authors start writing extensive acknowledgement sections? If you're using, for example, a lot of Harry Truman's letters and need to s...moreWhen did fiction authors start writing extensive acknowledgement sections? If you're using, for example, a lot of Harry Truman's letters and need to spend oodles of time at the Truman library, then by all means thank the extremely helpful librarians there.
But your cat? You need to thank your cat? In print?
In Hollywood, I think thanking your agent is in your contract, as is thanking the Weinstein brothers. They're standing in the wings backstage, saying, "I made you. You're going to let everyone out there know or you'll never work in this town again!"
Somehow, I just don't imagine that going on in the publishing world. Your agent's secretary might be extremely helpful, and the junior copyeditor at the publishing house may really know her stuff, but I doubt they're going to drop you if you don't include an acknowledgements section singing their praises.
I was going to rant about acknowledgements in fiction books at some point - this book was the one that drove me over that edge.
The story's good. Twisted and ugly and suffocating and very readable. I'm not a huge fan of 1st person p.o.v., but it's appropriate to this book.
If one writes a book which involves a lot of puzzles and clues and traps and falsehoods, readers are going to read quite closely, trying to detect same. So if the story isn't absolutely airtight, your readers will notice any little gaps in credibility or storyline or whatnot. So dammit, I should not be left thinking, "Yes but, what about..." at the end.
I know. I always find something to complain about.(less)
This is a fun book of math, logic, and philosophical puzzles. The joy for me came from Smullyan's ability to channel Lewis Carroll. He used the charac...moreThis is a fun book of math, logic, and philosophical puzzles. The joy for me came from Smullyan's ability to channel Lewis Carroll. He used the characters, humor, and story lines from Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to great effect.
This is not, however, a math, logic, nor philosophy book. The answers are given in the back, along with a brief explanation of how the answer was reached. It doesn't explain the math/logic etc. I would have liked to have had more of an explanation of how to set up the problem-solving. Because I'm that kind of a nerd who doesn't understand higher math.(less)