Pet Shop Boyee!: Banksy’s “Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill”
Banksy has stepped up his game by setting up shop in NY and taking his artistic vision into even more 3-dimensional and interactive areas. When I find out about something this amazing I have an urge to post something about it immediately. When it deals with the work of an artist that I already have a large amount of respect for I feel like jumping right in the middle of the subject even more. The issue with this is that, to achieve the accessibility for everyone that we want on Monster Fresh, no one should have to jump into a swirling article or topic like a game of double dutch. There is always that moment that we first find out about something new and I want to be able to help introduce new forms of expression and artists instead of just featuring the latest release or project so, before providing the latest update, let’s first tackle a little of the back story behind Banksy and his work.
Banksy is one of the most influential and forward thinking graffiti artists of the last 20 years. He is well known for his stenciled bombing which he honed in the Bristol area of the United Kingdon. In his book “Banksy: Wall and Piece” (2005) he states that he decided to start doing his tagging with a stenciling format after being caught and running from the cops at the age of 18. He claims that, while hiding, he “spent over an hour under a dumpster truck with engine oil leaking all over (him)“. He looked up at a stencil on the fuel tank and realized that he had found his answer to cutting his painting time down to a fraction of what they currently took.
I highly recommend “Wall and Piece” because it is, not only an impressive composition of his collected work, but also full of quotes and passages that display the artist’s distinct vision and philosophies. What makes Banksy’s work consistently relevant isn’t his ability to draw or paint, or even his cunning vandalism, but his voice. I’m not going to claim that all graffiti is vital and has something to say beyond simple territorial pissings or blind destruction, because much of it is done ignorantly, but I will openly argue with anyone that claims that Banksy’s work isn’t absolute art in its purist form. His graffiti work evokes thought, inspires hope, and contains strong social commentaries about capitalism, politics, and, most of all, humanity. Like artist Ron English, Banksy’s hopeful, yet “illegal“, art pieces are often created in response to the corporate advertisements and “legal” oppressive imaging that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.
Wikipedia describes Banksy as “pseudo-anonymous“. This is because he is obviously well-known enough to publish books and have gallery shows but it’s doubtful that you will see his actual face on the cover of any magazine, or program any time soon. You won’t even find it on his website. He’s been able to achieve the oft-elusive feat of transferring from underground renegade artist into one that commands universal respect, but continues to enjoy the freedom and versatility of street art that warrants such anonymity.
Galleries are great, but they sometimes have the ability to almost quarantine art and remove it from the rest of society. They don’t provide the same effect as a giant, unexpected, apocalyptic mural in the center of Wall Street. In the past, the tagger has altered large building walls, in both the UK and in San Francisco, to read as “Designtated Graffiti Areas“. The scheme encouraged locals to come and vandalize the properties based on the fact that the walls were labeled to infer that the areas were permitted by the local authorities and government agencies. In 2006, Banksy teamed up with DJ Danger Mouse in London to replace hundreds of copies of the Paris Hilton album with hoax versions. Danger Mouse remixed tracks and renamed songs to have titles like, “Why am I famous?” while Banksy slipped the copies with alternate booklets into local retailers.
This August, Banksy spent time throwing up some new work in the New Orleans area, in his classic stenciled graffiti street art style. The paintings were done to commemorate the 3 yr anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and has been chronicled nicely on sites like Wooster Collective. For this month of October, however, Banksy has made his way up to New York and it appears that the artist has been able to find himself the perfect middle ground between gallery-style artist residencies and the awe-inspiring specatacle of street art.
Banksy’s “Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill” has a giant storefront window located at No.89, Seventh Ave. South in Greenwich Village, New York. It’s set up with the motif of a pet store but all of the “creatures” inside are constructed using animatronics. I write “creatures” because, although there is a lifelike robotic rabbit with full make up, filing it’s nails in the mirror, there is also everything from fishsticks swimming in a tank to chicken nuggets with feet eating out of a BBQ sauce container.
His art has often contained images of rats and other animals in the past and his 2003 animal rights activist enraging work “Turf War” had the artist spray-painting graffiti directly onto the sides of cows and pigs. There is a quote from Bansky on Wooster Collective where he says the following of the animatronic pet store:
“New Yorkers don’t care about art, they care about pets. So I’m exhibiting them instead. I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming, but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing. I took all the money I made exploiting an animal in my last show and used it to fund a new show about the exploitation of animals. If its art and you can see it from the street, I guess it could still be considered street art.”
The project is scheduled to run until Halloween and is open daily between 10am-12am, but is also viewable at night. If you are in the area we suggest going down there and checking it out. If you are able to make it down but choose not to do so, we suggest punching yourself in the genitals.
For those of us who will not likely be able to view the splendor first hand a video is provided below. The site Notcot.com commissioned artist filmmaker Seth Brau to make the following film which, at least at this point, appears to be the best video document of the exhibit available.
The following Youtube videos (also featured on Bansky’s official site) give further demonstration of each specific aspect of the exhibit as well.