This post has been corrected; see below for details.
Now that Los Angeles has lifted a ban on public art murals in some single-family neighborhoods and will allow people to erect murals on the sides of their houses, garages and fences, perhaps there is a Banksy-in-the-making out there.
That certainly would be lucrative. Consider Banksy, the British street artist with a gift for mischief and irony, who is so famous that a 2010 documentary on him (“Exit Through the Gift Shop”) got nominated for an Oscar, but who is so mysterious that few know what he looks like or whether “he” is really “they.” Work credited to Banksy has popped up on buildings around Los Angeles, among other parts of the world. A chunk of a wall from a Los Angeles gas station on which Banksy stenciled his “Flower Girl” mural in 2008 fetched $209,000 at auction in Beverly Hills on Thursday night. (The gavel price was $170,000 plus the buyer’s premium.)
Of course, long before Banksy came along, Los Angeles prided itself on being a mural capital. A decade-long ban on outdoor murals was unfortunate, undertaken to keep the sides of buildings not from being the canvas for vivid and often political art but from being the backdrop for shamelessly rampant commercial advertising.
In late August, the city lifted the far-reaching ban, allowing outdoor murals in business and industrial zones as long as the artist registers the work with the city, keeps it up for at least two years and makes sure the work does not contain a commercial message. And several days ago, the City Council tentatively approved a pilot program that would permit murals on single-family residences in council districts on the Eastside of L.A. Eagle Rock, Cypress Park, Boyle Heights and downtown are all included.
Councilman Curren Price, whose South L.A. 9th District is included in the program, put out a statement enthusiastically supporting the move. “For the 9th District, murals not only help to beautify our community but also aid in deterring graffiti and other criminal activity plaguing private property,” he said.
I agree with him. I think this is fantastic for neighborhoods and artists alike. Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Council District 11 on the Westside, and Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents District 3 in the San Fernando Valley, have asked for a report on providing an “opt-in” provision for other homeowners in other council districts who want to be allowed to have murals.
Sounds good, but I’m guessing some residential neighborhoods in Bonin’s district — Brentwood comes to mine — won’t go for it. We’ll see. Better to slowly start reintroducing legally sanctioned public art into our neighborhoods than to ban it outright.
And a note to Banksy: If you’re thinking about stenciling the side of a house in Eagle Rock, remember to get a permit from the city first.
[For the record: 10:32 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9] An earlier version of this post referred to 9th District Councilman Paul Curren; his name is Curren Price.]
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