San Francisco Has Banksy Fever!

Banksy On Sycamore
I know everyone else has already done all kinds of stuff about Banksy’s apparent PR trip to SF. (Kevmo is the go to guy for all my Bansky needs!) We couldn’t really sit around the Mission Mission offices sipping maté in our sweatpants all day and not join in the action a little.

So, let me ask you this, are these pieces still Banksy pieces if he didn’t put them up himself? If he designed them and maybe even chose the location and then e-mailed a PDF to his assistants who then cut the stencil and put them up, does that still make it a Banksy original? If it’s a unique design, which he doesn’t use anywhere else? This conversation took up most of my night last night and my voice is a little hoarse from all the loud talking, so I wanted to know what all of you thought.

UPDATE: Banksy loves pants!

54 Responses to “San Francisco Has Banksy Fever!”

  1. Clark says:

    I think they are Banksy’s. If he emails the plans to acrew and instructs them how to perform and produce such ‘pieces’ then he is no different than an architect who puts his name on a building. Of course if you are talking about buying a ‘Banksy’ I would prefer an object or thing that he completely made by himself rather than by a ‘team’ he coordinated but that seems to be a different question or discussion.

  2. arjuna says:

    didn’t warhol do that? not the emailing, but the telling someone else how to do a piece and then just signing his name when it was done?
    i don’t know that i agree with warhol that it’s still his work, but the concept isn’t unprecedented, you know?

  3. i’d say it’s still a “Banksy” but if he didn’t put it up himself then it’s a different medium from the ones that he threw up in person. in fact, he may have invented a new genre of street art. remote graffiti?

    but, add another detail: what if the pieces were done with the permission of the wall owners? is that still “street art”?

  4. laurie bk says:

    still banksy, i think. just as a composer’s work is played out by musicians with their unique interpretation.

  5. C. says:

    Lots of artists, esp. big and commercially successful artists, do that.
    Friends of friends in NYC worked for Jeff Koons in his massive Soho studio. He supposedly made them wear yellow overalls or jumpsuits.
    Arjuna’s comment citing Warhol is particularly relevant; Andy’s art addressed issues of mass reproduction fully and directly.

  6. Allan Hough says:

    Movie directors don’t do every little job it takes to make a movie, but they still get their name on it.

    • So does everyone else in the credits.

      • Allan Hough says:

        Yeah but everyone knows Kathryn Bigelow directed Hurt Locker. Nobody knows Sami Sehweil was video playback operator.

      • Allan Hough says:

        It’s called “A Spike Lee Joint” not “A Spike Lee and propmaker Luca Giampaoli Joint.”

      • Ariel Dovas says:

        I think it’s different for different mediums, though. Movies are infinitely replicable. The reason there is value in a Banksy piece is mostly due to the idea that it is unique. That’s why people won’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for a Hurt Locker DVD.

        Plus, with movies, there are not really any feature films that can be made by one person alone, so we collectively understand that the name at the front is the person who spearheaded the vision (in some way or another), whereas with a 2D work of art, many are created by one person’s hand alone, which is part of how we ascribe value to it. So when you create that kind of work by committee you are really (in my opinion) creating something different.

        Warhol is a great example, mostly because he was doing it that way to make a point about the nature of valuing an artistic work and the way that it can be commodified. But the trouble I have is that Banksy seems to make statements against the commercial nature of our current world. I want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily believe that he didn’t spray the paint on these works himself, I just wonder . . . because we don’t have any way of knowing and maybe we don’t care. But then his product becomes the same as a can of Coke, right? When we see a new Obey sticker go up somewhere we don’t go all aTwitter about it. Because a) we assume Shepard Fairey himself didn’t drop by and stick it up – it is not done by the artist’s hand, and b) we assume there are many more like it – it is not unique.

      • laurie bk says:

        Good point to give credit where credit is due. Could be he’s duping the public while exploiting peon artists who assist. I like to think it’s more like he and fellow members of Team Banksy are interchangeable and screwing with ideas of ownership, art, etc. Maybe their workday begins in the pony office with the windows closed, smoking, cutting and listening to raga. Then its hello Valencia, it’s me/us, Banksy

      • Allan Hough says:

        Maybe Banksy is making a statement about just this. The minute he does something new anywhere, it’s all over the internet. And then somebody is making some bit of money just by spotting the thing and taking a picture and announcing its existence next to a Google Ad. So he is pranking Scott Beale and Boing Boing by devaluing the value of a Banksy spotting.

        Or maybe he’s just promoting his movie, because it’s time to get paid.

      • Ariel Dovas says:

        Shoot. So we’re getting pranked and not even getting paid. Maybe that means we’re pranking back?

  7. laurie bk says:

    I figure if the piece was designed by him to be put up by others — people who’ve internalized the stylings of his line and touch, and whose own styles Banksy knows well — then it’s a masked Banksy, rather than a Banksy mask. Something like that.

  8. Joshua says:

    nothing in the art world really has a conclusive answer. through social experiences i’ve found that anyone at any time can argue about anything just for the sake of arguing so i don’t even know where to begin on that.

    here’s my thoughts on the Banksy art:

    i view it similar to someone covering a song. it might be a different performer singing it but its still someone else’s work / effort that made the song in the first place. so i guess the credit goes to everyone that’s involved.

    its a banksy production, i guess.

  9. youyouyouwhy says:

    “Outsource” to other “field workers”? THIS IS INSANE! I vote NO! If he/any are not physically there to install it himself, its not street art! Its advertising!

    What makes me appreciate a piece more are the obstacles that artist must go through to complete it.

    • laurie bk says:

      If Banksy threw these up himself, yeah then I love it more! Guess I’m starting to question why I would love it more…. Star-struck? Batman fetish? Cool? And when the dust settles will it still be standing so I can really have a moment with its smudges, overlaps and wavering lines which author an untold Banksy-viewer story never to be published by blogs or magazines?

      Back to what Spots Unknown said, if it’s ‘remote graffiti’ then it’s a different bird from street art as many know it. I’m not a street artist — so in my ignorance I regard it as art on the street. Maybe that’ll change when I learn more… or when it’s framed heh.

      So I really want to see more of Banksy’s work while it’s here. Without the footnotes or warnings or trumpeting. But it seems to be part of the (big) package, and I must admit I’m affected by the buzz — it’s exciting.

      My initial response to his/their work so far? It’s like meeting the new kid in the block with a mysterious past.

      • laurie bk says:

        ack, hoarse voice…

      • youyouyouwhy says:

        thank you for over looking my obvious phone/key pad grammar hahaha!

        To elaborate on the *obstacles* that make me appreciate street art more:

        1.) An actually impression that the artist makes from their own hands.

        2.) Concept,Composition, Scale.

        3.) Color Theory. In this round, I saw 1 up to 4 colors in these pieces! That keeps in the hot seat longer.

        3.) Location.

        4.) The time of Month, hahaha!
        Anything past the 20th in a month proves to be even more of a challenge to work considering there are more cars patrolling with quotas to fill.

        What Ive always appreciated about Street Art is that an art degree isn’t needed to help translate it intention or message!

        An appreciation for it I think ranks higher than its understanding of the “process” or the “stats” of the participant… though other graffiti artists, like many that I have collaborated with, disagree.

      • laurie bk says:

        Sweet, thanks for this youyouyouwhy. Gives me new lens to try on. #4 is a particularly interesting obstacle. This afternoon I went to his Sycamore piece. Was really admiring the earthy colors, how beautifully the surrounding tags were integrated into this (or maybe it’s the other way around, how the Native American figure was set within this landscape).

        Across the street, it looks like he’s sitting where a brilliant yellow sun begins to set behind a chain of peaked mountain tops (A’s) in the distance, zigzagging to the right of his knees. And behind his head, a trail of smoky black letters rise like thoughts.

        Looking above the No Trespassing sign, high above its feather tips and roof, a billboard looms bleating that a gadzillion dollar SF dream house can be yours! And in the right corner of the building, there’s another rendering of Old World figures…

        Love how it all ties in with the murals downstream Sycamore, on the shore of Valencia… murals dedicated to the Indigenous People, where his inspiration for the figure no doubt came from (in my mind).

  10. Melissa says:

    How do you know that he didn’t do them himself?

  11. kiya says:

    That was all him.
    Bank came to Self Edge on wednesday night to buy a few things, his assistant emailed me three days prior to have me meet them at the shop.
    In the four years that store has been open it was the only time i closed it during business hours so that somebody can check out the stuff privately.
    He spent 6 days in San Francisco and four of those days he spent completely in the Mission. He’s a legend and very nice guy, and yes, that’s him in that photo somebody took of him four years ago in Jamaica.

    • laurie bk says:


    • Not to be a hater, but considering someone like Banksy wants to keep his identity a secret, I doubt he would pull some Opera-level bullshit by having an assistant schedule a time for you to close the store and then disclose his closely guarded identity to a random stranger so he can buy pants. “But perhaps his most provocative statement, and the one that generates the most publicity, is the fact that Banksy’s true identity has always been a jealously guarded secret, known to only a handful of trusted friends.” And, you know, some bro on Valencia St. that hawks $300 denim.

      Give me a break. Sounds like you cashing in on the “Banksy fever” yourself. Either that or someone punked the shit out of you (especially true since the public world, including Kiya, has no idea who Banksy really is).—public-schoolboy-middle-class-suburbia.html

      • kiya says:

        You have a strange understanding of how the elite art and celebrity world works. High profile stores get contacted on a weekly basis by assistants and artists themselves looking for off-hours shopping sessions. This is not unusual and happens often to stores which sell a product which is either extremely rare or unobtainable any other way. These guys like Banksy have a firm understanding of what’s hot in the world, they’re not curmudgeon as some may believe. They have friends, they go to bars, and they do everything in their power to not be photographed.
        Banksy was not only with us for an hour at the store on wednesday night but was out with a couple of my friends all day on tuesday that used to own two well known stores on Fillmore for 35 years which recently closed down. Think what you may, with the roster of people we serve in SF and NY already there’s no reason to lie about one more artist.

      • I’m still calling bullshit. I have multiple friends that have shopped at your store and none of them have ever complained that they were not given a professional level of service. Given that you run a reputable store and Banksy tries EXTREMELY hard to stay anonymous, why would he risk exposing his identity just for a private showing of pants? It doesn’t make sense. Considering that no one knows what he looks like, why wouldn’t he just shop as an everyday Joe Schmoe? His service, presumably, would have been the same.

        Anyways, the burden of proof is not on me to disprove you. Rather, you need to prove that it happened. How do you know that it was Banksy and not some marketing bro? How do you know it wasn’t a hyperlocal version of MTV punked? In the immortal words of the internet: pic or it didn’t happen.

      • Skitten says:

        That’s the beauty of Banksy – any fool can call up some boutique claiming to be him and get VIP treatment. And they’ll never know ;)

      • bodah says:

        1. you are a hater.

        2. this is not a court of all and you are not the judge of anyone here. there is no burden of proof and if there is one, you are not the arbiter of where that burden falls.

        3. you are of course, like everyone else, entitled to your opinion. however, your failure and/or inability to grasp how folks like banksy work is the real problem. people like him shut down stores because they can. fuck, i would do it if i could myself and if you are honest with yourself, you would too.

        4. stop hating here, i thought you started your own blog to rant on. like i said the last time we danced, good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • I call bullshit. If no one can confirm or deny what he looks like so why would he bother with such histrionics and draw attention to himself.
      Seems like a red herring planted to keep the legend alive and throw the scent dogs off.
      I’m not buying it.
      Also there is this thing called “the internet”. Where you can “shop”. I know. Crazy. You can even “shop” at home in your underwear.

      • J says:

        If no one can verify his identity why would he even bother setting up a “special” showing. He could just waltz right in and buy whatever he wanted and no one would know the difference or give a damn, he would be just another dude. Why would he risk having his identity known.

        That store annoys me anyway. My boyfriend and I went in one time and looked around for about 15 minutes and no one even acknowledged us, no hello, no smile, nothing (there were no other customers either). Then the other day we came back because my BF can’t get the stupid jeans off his mind and wants them. When we got to the door and they were in there but wouldn’t let us in, we were both confused why they just hate customers. I guess they were closed but it was only about 6pm and they again failed us and lost money.

    • salsa says:

      The private showing sounds plausible enough, but confirming the identity in the Jamaica photo sounds like quite the unsmooth move and casts doubt on this account.

    • jonstarbuck says:

      “Bank”? Who is that?

      So some English guy that lives in SF came into your store and bought some pants and managed to convince you he was Banksy. Hell, I am an English guy who lives in SF, maybe it was me!

      • jonstarbuck says:

        I’m not saying you are a liar, more that you have been had. However the idea that Banksy has an assistant who emails to organise private denim fittings is so appealing and funny that I want to believe that too.

        I’m Spartacus, and so’s my wife!

        Thanks for the off-hours shopping session and the discount denim ;-)

  12. russell says:

    On-the-roof goodness fm Valencia St.
    Car-free pics fm Sycamore and Commercial….

    thousands more as well….

    enjoy the stencil frenzy!

  13. russell says:

    OK…. adding some two cents on this feed (beyond my links posted last night): I’ve followed Banksy’s work since 2000 and feel that these SF works are a bit light on can control skills. What tipped me off was the poorly painted heart in Chinatown. After seeing the bird stencil, with freehand tree, I again wonder if this is Banksy’s fearless hand touching the painted work.

    Unless we run with Banksy and his team (you can see from his doc that Banksy does indeed work with a crew), we will never know. SF is a small city, so any insiders will surely leak word. Again, who knows. And, if the greedy art capitalists take any of this art off the public walls (just happened in LA), it will sell as a Banksy on the free market for big $$$.

    In the end, hundreds of folks spent a fun, sunny Sat. running around SF like crazy chickens clucking at the pretty pictures. I was in the middle of it, and have been doing it for years, so was glad to have company for once! That’s Banksy’s message, and we all swallowed the pill that tripped us out for the weekend.

    • kiya says:

      I would think that if you were following Banksy for ten years you’d be able to tell that the heart in the Chinatown piece wasn’t drawn by him, it’s what attracted him to draw his piece ONTO the heart.

      • bomarr says:

        i do suspect that the peace sign and heart in the chinatown piece were done by him. he tends to do that, have a stencil interacting with something that looks much more amateur. even the other pieces that popped up this past week have a stencil interacting with red paint….the 9th and howard piece with the rat who drew a line drawing of a rat, the haight street one with the “this is where i draw the line” written in red paint with a huge line going across the building, and even the valencia one with the kid who is made to look like he painted “this’ll look great when it’s framed.”

        bottom line, i think he wants that stuff to look intentionally sloppy

  14. Nunya Bizness says:

    hmmm…clever, ironic stencils. OK, it’s better than blank walls. I was happier to see that Beks DMS in in town now too. Those cats are way more G, and better yet, photo-fanboys and girls have no idea what it is. They don’t even see it. It makes me feel elite to have a more gangster eye than the masses of photo-kooks parading up and down Clarion every fucking day. You can barely piss in peace. Rock on Banks, but I’ll employ a more discerning awareness. Damn it’s good to be a G.

  15. Johnny P says:

    Who gives a shit. Shoot pigs and fuck the system.

  16. youyouyouwhy says:

    The Banksy piece on second story of a motorcycle shop on 9th steet near Howard grew! Check it out!

  17. youyouyouwhy says:

    a blue otter with a white baret??? and “(otter)” to the right of Banksy’s peice

    • Jym Dyer says:

      “Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else.” — Banksy

      =v= “Otter” clearly has nothing to say, and glomming onto a Banksy piece is feeble.

      • Melissa says:

        I don’t think Otter is trying to get fame off Banksy. I think he admires Banksy and thought it would be fun to go out alone, no ladders, and paint his own pieces along side. There was no defacing of Banksy’s art AT ALL. And if Otter has “nothing to say” than neither does Banksy. Street art is street art!!

      • bomarr says:

        this otter stuff is bullshit. not only is the artwork bad, but it’s a sure-fire way to have people consider all the graffiti that is now on the wall to be a nuisance and remove it all. i knew someone would come along and do something stupid like this. i kind of hoped someone wouldn’t, but then again, i put too much faith in humanity

      • Melissa says:

        It’s not about the Otter work being “bad”. Maybe he isn’t an amazing artist like Banksy (obviously) but at least it’s not some fucking little brat hood kids writing actual ugly graffiti words in scribble. I think as street art goes, its about that fun wild feeling of going out into the night and painting. That is art for them. He isn’t trying to compete with Banksy. And if he IS, at least people are talking about him, I’m sure he loves it.

      • bomarr says:

        well, like i said…it’s almost guaranteed now that the building owner will have both of them painted over, and that’s a shame/ i agree, it’s not about whether the art is good or not. although if you want attention for your work, then get out there and do something worth bringing attention to and don’t piggyback on the attention that the banksy pieces are getting. i think it’s cheap.

      • Melissa says:

        Yeah I can see that. I’ve seen those Otters in a few other places around the city too. So at least some of them are independent. Hopefully the Banksy pieces DONT get covered. That would suck I agree. But then again, its all just spray paint on a wall.

  18. danwalsh says:

    Some close up pics of the Chinatown Banksy:

  19. [...] of Banksy’s fly-by-night murals and markings in San Francisco seem to be accounted for, with local blogs left to quibble over the pieces. (See map below for locations and [...]

  20. [...] boutique de mezclilla sobre la calle Valencia para una sesión privada de compras, tal y como dijo un empleado de Self Edge en Mission Mission? ¿Habrá sido un truco de publicidad para su nueva [...]

  21. [...] a publicity stunt for his recent film, while others think that his work may be done by the hand of assistants. Whether or not the pieces are Banksy originals, one particular artist named “Otter” [...]

  22. [...] a publicity stunt for his recent film, while others think that his work may be done by the hand of assistants. Whether or not the pieces are Banksy originals, one particular artist named “Otter” tried [...]

  23. Wade says:

    Wow, what an amazing few weeks in SF!

  24. Dan Walsh says:

    Some close ups of this stencil before it was defaced:

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