Banksy, the British street artist and prankster, is on the loose in New York City. But what do you make of it when this international phenomenon lands in your average Queens neighborhood?
Banksy has spent the last week around the city posting stencil prints with bold messages — his once unique, now ubiquitous style. This morning, Gothamist reported that the artist's latest work appeared in Woodside, just blocks from my apartment.
So after work, I got off the subway a stop early and strolled over to see his latest opus. There was no crowd of toughs demanding money, no jealous graffiti hastily sprayed over it — just a thick but polite gaggle spilling into the dead-end street, staring at a quote from the movie “Gladiator” on the back of the most common of common buildings.
I’m of two minds about Banksy. Sometimes his creations seems more punch line than masterwork, more artifice than genius. But I had to marvel at what he’d created here in Queens.
Construction workers speaking Spanish leaned against a stop sign and discussed what they saw. Middle school kids still in uniform climbed a nearby staircase to take in the crowds. Professional photographers circled, and hipsters on bikes rode up for an Instagram. It was a thrill, like knowing Louis Armstrong lived nearby, or that Jackie Robinson worked out at your park, or that punk rock was born a couple subway stops away.
On Sunday, Banksy posted a video showing some lucky tourists at an unassuming kiosk near Central Park snapping up some of his spray-painted originals — art valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to some — for just $60 apiece.