Is Banksy Getting Boring?

Crayon Soldier by Banksy

Dog Wizz by Banksy

Charlie Brown Arsonist by Banksy

Mickey & Minnie Mouse Billboard

I know, I know, it’s totally an overly sensational title. Bear with me and let me explain. The other day four new Banksy pieces went up here in Los Angeles, causing a flutter among street art blogs and Banksy hanger-on-ers alike. As potentially residing in either or both of these camps, I can say that I was flatly disappointed.

First off, the two top pieces, which are definitely him, seem a bit… too easy. A child soldier with a machine gun full of crayons, hasn’t that been done before? It feels like something a person would do if they wanted to try and rip off Banksy. A dog wizzing on the side of a building? That’s it?

I did find the Charlie Brown one funnier once I saw the image on Banksy’s website, giving it the proper context. The problem is, a lot of the people who wrote about the piece failed to mention that it was painted onto a building that had been condemned after it had been through a fire. Still, it seems a bit cookie cutter as well. Take on part pop icon, mix it with another part anarchist ideology and voila, you’ve made art. Good grief.

The last piece I’ve read was commissioned by Banksy, but that story seems weird to me. At the same time it certainly doesn’t seem like his style. Sure, there are people who can fake a different style but for whatever reason none of it feels like him. Either way I find this last piece totally out of character, and that’s a shame. It almost diminishes him in my eyes, like he was going for a cheap joke, even if it is well done, instead of being more clever, but clever is what makes him so good. It’s what separates him from all other street artists. Perhaps this is a fluke, perhaps I’m overthinking all of this, either way I think Banksy needs to try harder next time.


29 Comments Is Banksy Getting Boring?

  1. Chris Bomely February 18, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Bobby ~

    I have to say when I read the title of your post, I gasped! And thought how could you say this!

    But reading your post. I have to agree!

    First 2 – seems like its from the Bansky handbook.

    3 -I like it, but again. Routine.

    4 – I dont like. And reading that it was commissioned, makes me like IT less.

    Not saying anything here, but its almost like when Jordan left, came back and wore the 45.

    But I guess if I use that reference, Jordan did came back and won a few more rings after that. So hopefully that means Bansky hasn’t jumped the shark.

    Sorry stupid sports reference.

    Great post.


  2. Brandon February 18, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    I agree with you too—but I’m also wondering if this work may be part of a plan with his Oscar nomination. Seeing how he made a mock-documentary about thoughtless street art, he may be dumbing himself down deliberately…I don’t know.

    I definitely miss the more thought out work.

  3. TGPBall February 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    I am not sure I agree, though I do see the point you’re making.
    Banksy started (as i’m sure you’ll already know) using stencils as he admitted that he wasn’t quick enough to free hand graffiti. So the 4th piece does not even necessarily have to be his “style” as a freehand piece would seem totally different to his usual medium, but more something that i’m sure he is perfectly capable of doing, given more time to paint.
    I also feel that a lot of pressure is put on him to produce equally as amazing, tongue-in-cheek, comic or hard hitting pieces as the ones before because he is very much in the public eye. He has worked hard doing what he clearly loves, and in the process whether intentional or not, earned a rather big ‘name’ for himself that seems to now mean everyone is expecting him to do something bigger and better every single time.
    A lot of pressure for someone that probably wouldn’t care either way irregardless.
    Good post on an interesting topic.

  4. Margot February 18, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Great post. Wish I would have had ya in my pocket this weekend when the subject of Banksy came up with a bunch of elder folks. Would have made the discussion even more interesting!

  5. Fred H. February 18, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    I agree with Brandon. I think it’s part of the whole “look ma, i’m a street artist” dumbed-down-mockery thing he started with the movie.

    Perhaps he lost his inspiration or his belief in the medium after he became famous. Happens to the best of us.

  6. sean patrick February 18, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    your “good grief” is perfectly positioned. if only blogs could get pulitzers…

  7. Tanner Christensen February 18, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Like most good things, after a while they can seem boring. It’s like watching your favorite movie over and over again. The movie is still good (Banksy still rocks), but you already know how it ends.

  8. Jerry Henderson February 18, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    The commissioned work seems to me to be the most honest and thought out. Although it doesn’t seem like his work. He’s simply making fun of America’s Pop culture. It seems it’s become OK to act like a idiotic buffoon. AMERICA LOVES IT.

  9. Jason Dean February 18, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of Banksy, or for that matter Shepard Fairey. Granted, I loved “Exit through the Gift Shop” and I can appreciate their work ethic and willingness to take on huge projects, but the way they think conceptually is extremely basic and dumbed-down. I mean, a flower in the barrel of a gun? Crayon ammo? I understand why the masses think they’re geniuses, but neither seem to take conceptual thought to the next level. And how long will Shepard Fairey continue to milk his current style? It’s been what, 10 years since we’ve seen anything new?

    I’ll take Tokujin Yoshioka or Chris Burden anyday.

  10. tib February 18, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    I think it’s great, especially the dog one got me chuckles

  11. andrew February 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    i think the work here (1-3) is banksy doing what banksy does. it was fresh when it first came out because we hadn’t seen it before. if this stuff was the first stuff we’d seen, i think we’d admire it more. i still like it. picture number 4 looks more like a ‘thierry guetta’ to me.

  12. Stephen Howells February 18, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Ya know, the 1956 Rothko pieces looked a lot like the 1957 Rothko’s. In fact, even the 59’s are a dead ringer for the 56’s. Some artists just have their style and thank God for it.

  13. Carlton1 February 19, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    I don’t think its as much as banksy getting boring as much as everyone’s woken up to his schtick.

    I’ve never really been into banksy, I saw his mass appeal, especially if you had never encountered street art before, but I always thought it was, like you said in this article, a bit cookie cutter. Take a recognizable image and then ironically replace an object with a symbol of anarchy/violence and done. His ‘messages’ were very one dimensional; the kind that you could see hanging in university dorm rooms or printed onto black t-shirts at the mall. Simple, reproducible, not much depth. Capitalism is bad, we get it man.

    That said I do appreciate SOME of his works (israeli west bank wall will always be a standout), and exit through the gift shop was a valiant effort [although i still think it was a b-grade F for Fake…], I just never understood the mass love he gets.
    Furthermore, blek le rat.

  14. B.Land February 19, 2011 at 1:12 AM


    You bring up a good point; however, I feel like everyone and you are reading into this way too much. Isn’t this just what Banksy wants people to say about him. He obviously hasn’t ever cared about people’s perception of him in the past, so why would he care now? He’s here in LA, he’s caused the entire town to go up in arms over him. By writing this blog you have played into exactly what Banksy has sot out to accomplish…causing confusion, speculation, and buzz. He is a genius for what he has is doing in LA, regardless of the “skill or predictability” of his pieces.

  15. sd February 19, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    Art is subjective. He doesn’t need to “try harder next time” to please a general audience.

  16. angel February 19, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    “A child soldier with a machine gun full of crayons…”

    I think it’s a tribute to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair”. Truth.

  17. Alaskan February 20, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    You criticize him for being too consistent with his old work and then say the last one seems out of character. This is why many artists don’t listen to critics, you can’t win. If you stay the same, it’s stale, if you change you abandoned your principles.

  18. Andrew February 22, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    Not boring, and yes you’re over thinking it. To expect someone to constantly be groundbreaking is unfair and more representative of a consumer society, constantly need to full fill there never ending need of something interesting focus on for 30 seconds. The first to painting are simplistic, but in a good way.

    I’m sure he woke up, didn’t feel overly political that day and instead opted for some nice simple pieces. The rest are good two. Your reaction may just be due to the saturation of Banksy style art, and the theme about modern art as being superficial, taken from his documentary.

    But I don’t get that reaction, of course modern art is superficial, because art represents society. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just correct. His art is still good, it just might not hold the same relevancy to anyone who’s “bored” with it.

  19. Bobby Solomon February 22, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    @Chris Bromley – I think that totally makes sense. I don’t think in anyway that Banksy is washed up though, I just thought these weren’t very inspired.

    @Brandon – I don’t think he’s dumbing himself down, I think these were a fluke.

    @TGPBail – He doesn’t need to be amazing every time, but these seemed tired and a bit lazy to me.

    @Margot – That sounds like a lot of fun!

    @Fred H. – I totally disagree, I just think he didn’t try very hard.

    @Sean Patrick – Glad you enjoyed that, it was my favorite part of the whole thing.

    @Jerry Henderson – I agree, the commissioned one is great, it just seems weird that he may have paid someone to do something.

    @Jason Dean – I don’t think you get it, honestly. Shepard Fairey started street art for a lot of kids and Banksy made it entirely profitable. These guys are pioneers whether you like it or not.

    @Stephen Howells – Sure, it looks like his work, but in my opinion it’s uninspired, and that’s a bit of a let down. I like when he challenges people’s perceptions.

    @Carlton1 – Totally disagree with everything you say, but to each his own.

    @B.Land – I’m sure he doesn’t care about my opinion, that’s all it is. I just like his work when his tongue s more firmly planted in his cheek.

    @sd – Art is completely subjective, he doesn’t have to do a thing, but I didn’t enjoy these, simple as that.

    @Angel – Best comment of the bunch.

    @Alaskan – Uhhhh, I’m about 99% sure that last one isn’t him, so what you’re saying doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    @Armin – Not really hating, just trying to point out that his latest attempt at art fell a bit flat and I’m a bit bummed about it. I’m a fan of his work through and through.

    @Andrew – I’m gonna have to say that you’ve completely over thought this as well. Consumer society? Superficial modern art? I just thought a kid with a gun full of crayons was kinda’ lame.

  20. Florian February 23, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    I agree with you and an artist has to develop his style continuously; especially when it comes to street art I think as an artist you reach a point where your pieces looks similar more rapidly than as a contemporary artist because you have much less time and less equipment/materials which you can use.

  21. Gabriel February 23, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    STYLE: incapacity of doing thing´s a different way

  22. Jacob February 24, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this exact criticism of Banksy, or of Shepard Fairey. I think, while some of Banksy’s stuff has been really inspired, most of it has maintained the exact same feel and message. It was cool to be introduced to his stuff initially, but it got old quickly.

    I’m still a Shepard Fairey hater. I get that some of his early stuff was really revolutionary, but talk about art for profit’s sake. Everything he has done in the last…5?…years has seemed entirely motivated by the payoff. Not to mention his Obey line.

  23. Bobby Solomon February 24, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    @Jacob – I think the idea that artists shouldn’t make money is completely idiotic. Banksy makes a shit ton of money off his work, as does every fine artist in the world. So why shouldn’t Shepard Fairey do the same? The world runs on money, not wheat pasted posters.

    And what do you mean initially Banksy was cool? He was doing graffiti back in ’92, so he’s been doing street art for almost 20 years now. Comments like these make me feel like people aren’t thinking about the big picture, they just want to digest and move on.

  24. Jaco February 24, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”

  25. Matt February 24, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I agree with your review of the works but I also think that B. Land is on to something up the page. I’m not sure that the sort of stale new work isn’t an intentional strategy to get people talking and more importantly thinking about what street art is and why people appreciate it. Thats what this discussion is about right now and we’re having it because of these works. Although this has probably been done before Banksy has a certain mass appeal that most other street artists don’t and that is helping this discussion reach some people that it never would have before.

  26. Oscar Rokez February 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    hi can someone give me the street that the first 3 are on i want to see em in person

  27. Shaye April 27, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    hes obviously happy with his pieces if hes put them out there,as an artist, he doesnt seem to be about the money or fame, more about getting out anti political and social ideas, if he has to reuse old ones then so be it, nothing is changing therefore maybe society NEEDS to hear/see it again. Things are only boring if you want them to be.

  28. Gareth May 15, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Banksy seemed to have a cause…where is it now? So did the whole OBEY thing, sadly we have become saturated by an artist doing exactly the same thing. It is all fast becoming normal and boring. Is it because they have reached their peek and wish not to push themselves further?

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