Banksy is more than halfway through his monthlong New York City residency, with installations and graffiti by the elusive British street artist popping up throughout the city. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not exactly thrilled.
"I'll leave it up to our Department of Cultural Affairs," Bloomberg told reporters on Wednesday when asked what he thought about Banksy's work. "But look, graffiti does ruin people's property and it’s a sign of decay and loss of control."
But is it art?
"Art is art, and nobody's a bigger supporter of the arts than I am," Bloomberg continued. "I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you running up to somebody's property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art."
Earlier this week, a stencil of the World Trade Center's twin towers, with a burnt flower emerging from one of the buildings, appeared in Tribeca. The day before, a stencil figure washing a spray-painted quote from the movie "Gladiator" appeared on a wall in the Woodside section of Queens.
"It may be art, but it should not be permitted," Bloomberg said of the graffiti. "And I think that's exactly what the law says."
"GET BANKSY!" The New York Post declared on its Thursday cover.
Of course, the law is not stopping Banksy.
"The street is in play," Banksy wrote on his website introducing the first piece of his New York run: the painting of a boy reaching for a can of spray paint on a sign that declares "Graffiti is a crime."
Ironically, it's fellow vandals who have taken to self-policing Banksy's work.
His second creation — "This is my New York accent" written in what you might call traditional graffiti-tag-style above a formal note, "normally I write like this" — was painted over by another graffiti-ist, who asked, "SO WHAT?"
While graffiti might be illegal, some of the other installations in Banksy's "Better Out Than In" series do not appear to be breaking any laws. On Wednesday, Banksy had a "live boy" shine the shoes of a fiberglass Ronald McDonald replica in the south Bronx.
Last weekend, Banksy's spray canvases — which typically fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction — were sold for $60 to unsuspecting customers from a booth in Central Park. (It's unclear if Banksy had a permit, or if he needed one.)
And his "slaughterhouse delivery truck," filled with stuffed animals in the Meatpacking District, appeared to obey all traffic laws.
- Michael Bloomberg