Banksy and George Melly

There is much debate about Banksy in the Art World. In today’s Guardian, the critic Jonathon Jones gives a somewhat sniffy and disparaging account of Banksy’s work and its place in the territory that the apparatchiks of high art assume for themselves. He mentions the fact that young people rated Banksy third in the list of influential artists behind Walt Disney and Peter Kay and ahead of Leonardo da Vinci, in a recent poll. He talks about how he immersed himself in Banksy’s oeuvre, as if he were a blank photographic plate, in order to see whether Banksy measured up to the hype and would imprint an image of genius upon him. Remember that Banksy has moved from tagged graffiti on Bristol walls, to the dividing wall in Ramallah, from multi-storey car parks to works mysteriously appearing in the most esteemed galleries and museums. He has impacted on American culture, too.

But not like Damian Hirst. Oh no. Damian is an artist because of his passion. Banksy, however, mocks and cuckolds the art establishment.

In the end, of course, Jones fills two pages in the Guardian with his absurdist rambling and throws more publicity-invoking petrol on Banksy’s reputation. Is Banksy the latest in a line through Dada and Surrealism? Of course. Fortunately, people make up their own minds most of the time and there is enough goodwill towards Banksy’s enterprises, to maintain him as an influential, satirical, socio-political commentator, for the moment.

He takes the piss the way we like it. I’d liked to have asked George Melly what he thought. But, alas, that great mischief maker died today. We all do, you know, Jonathon Jones. Some of us make the journey to that final state, fun for the rest.

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