When Banksy Graffiti is Attacked by Graffiti

When a vandal sneaks his or her vicious activity into a museum or art space, we are saddened. A painting may have its surface damaged, or a statue may be chipped or even outright broken. When this happens to an older piece of art it is especially upsetting — it’s not as though we can bring back Leonardo Da Vinci back to properly restore The Last Supper and so other people have to step in when it sustains considerable damage as it did during the second World War.

When the artist is living it is still upsetting — the artist can only create that which inspiration dictates and it is quite improbable that an artist can recapture the same sentiment he or she had when the art was originally created a second time. It is silly to speculate how it would be possible to recreate original art and so we have to know that any attempt to recreate would just be a hollow copy of the original artwork by the artist, original or otherwise.

It is worth considering the quandary of what to think when the artwork itself was uninvited — as is the case with the Banksy artwork that was spray painted on the side of a building not too far from where I now work in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn. Here is the painting as it was in May of 2010. Note that it is a classic Banksy piece of work — social commentary and nice art at the same time.

Here is the painting as it is more recently.

When I pass by it every morning, it seems to look even worse than it does in this latter image. While it gets me down that the artwork was defaced in such an unpleasant manner, what can we expect to happen to a piece of artwork that was created on a privately owned building and, naturally, without the permission of the owner of the building.

What are we to think of the graffiti artist who spray painted over the spray painting that was already there? Is it possible that it was thought that, considering that it was “just” graffiti, adding graffiti to graffiti wouldn’t make much of a difference? Does graffiti plus graffiti ever equal art?