By Deborah Vankin
2:53 PM PDT, October 1, 2013
As the month of October begins, street-art fans are buzzing with curiosity over signs that Banksy is in Los Angeles and on the loose.
Enigmatic statements have been surfacing around the city. The posters – the most recent appeared at Beverly and Highland — all carry the same message: "Banksy Oct. 2013."
The mysterious UK-based street artist, whose identity has never been publicly confirmed, also unveiled a new piece of work on his website two weeks ago, a stenciled mural at an unknown location. The mural, which depicts a graffiti tagger bent forward, spray can in-hand and vomiting a tower of blooming flowers, carried the text: "Better Out Than In. October 2013.”
Most guessed that was the name of an upcoming Banksy show. But the bigger mystery — until now, midday Tuesday — was where the show would take place.
On Tuesday, the image on Banksy’s website changed and the text was updated to say: “Better Out Than In. An artists residency on the streets of New York.”
The mural — depicting a little boy standing atop another boy’s back and captioned "The street is in play" — is in Manhattan’s Chinatown, according to the Village Voice. Banksy's website elaborates: "For the next month Banksy will be attempting to host an entire show on the streets of New York."
Slightly ahead of the curve, street art photographer Fragile posted a picture on his Twitter account recently, visible only to his followers, of "The street is in play." The tweet suggested the mural was in New York, which fueled buzz that the “Better Out Than In” show would be as well — as opposed to Los Angeles, as many suspected.
But the more immediate question is not who, but where, is Banksy today?
Perhaps the artist is on both coasts at once. Speculation, for some time, has been that Banksy is, in fact, not one individual but a collective of people throwing up the artist’s work on walls internationally.
“I've always found that the variety of mediums [Banksy] works with might indicate a collective,” said Rico Gagliano, cohost of American Public Media's Arts-Culture show, "The Dinner Party Download." “There are the signature stencils, which seem to come from a single hand, but also street ‘installations’ like his cut-up British phone booth, sculptures like the Roman-style statue with a surveillance camera head, Xerox art like his manipulated British pound note.
"Most street artists have one style they hit over and over with some tweaking, whereas Banksy seems like the most ambi-artistic street artist ever” Gagliano said.
Street artist Ron English, who painted with Banksy in 2007 in Palestine as part of the “Santa's Ghetto Bethlehem” project and whose own solo show of paintings opens at Corey Helford Gallery on Oct. 26 — wouldn’t reveal any confidences about his elusive street-artist friend.
But he said the mysteries surrounding Banksy not only fuel interest in the artist but make the art itself more accessible.
“Some artists have had reputations for being egomaniacs — we remember a few guys from the '80s — but Banksy doesn’t take any credit,” English said by phone from Spain, where he was working on a new “Poultry Rex” mural. “Banksy doesn’t take a bow, its all about the art. There’s a purity to it that people like.”
Check back with Culture Monster for the next development in the ongoing Banksy mystery.
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