The Tate’s Turner Prize finalists were announced today. As per custom, Banksy was not on the list. Also as per usual Jonathan Jones has his knickers in a knot over the nominees. I frankly don’t have a strong opinion on the work of any of this year’s artists’ work, but it’s interesting that multiple articles lead with the fact that Banksy wasn’t nominated so let’s run with that.
I generally like Banksy’s work — especially his Tate gallery infiltration — but I just can’t bring myself to get caught up in all the hype about (him?). Maybe I’ll change my mind after I see the movie. There’s a certain juvenile giddiness that seems to overcome people when they spot a Banksy. Jonathan Jones describes it by saying that “for middle class people to find artistic excitement in something that scares old people is a bit sick.” I think that’s an oversimplification of Banksy’s work in particular and street art in general but there is some resonant truth there, especially for creative people. Young designers and students are regularly encouraged to be “bad,” take risks and push boundaries. Artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Kieth Haring and Victor Ash embody those vales. They appeal to us in part because they live up to the full passion of their art. They are fearless in a way that we are not. They represent a creative ideal that we aspire to but hold limit ourselves from achieving. Like fashion models and rock stars we want what they have, but lack either the talent or drive (or both) to achieve it ourselves.
The next time you get excited street art take a moment to ask yourself why. What part of you is it really speaking to? What aspect of your talent does it complement or challenge?