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The Difference Between Public Art and Vandalism

Posted on Feb 22, 2011

Last week we told you about a new Banksy mural that was reportedly threatened by the people who own the wall it was painted on. Such street art is often derided as vandalism by property owners and city managers, but on a trip to see the painting ourselves we discovered, sadly, that some idiot really had vandalized the wall.

Here is what the mural originally looked like:

And here’s what it looked like on Sunday:

Look closer, and you’ll spot the swastika:

Fans of street art will tell you that these works are not permanent. The fact that they get painted over and disappear is part of what makes them special. This kind of half-assed defacing, on the other hand, is just too lame to bear.  —PZS

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By unfazed, February 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

@ drbhelthi

ha ha very clever

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By drbhelthi, February 26, 2011 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

Your familiarity with the swasticka is remarkable.
For me, a swasticka is a swasticka.

Perhaps the person who drew it was dyslexic. Which is a
phenomenon that the owner is not responsible for.

Deliberate lying and disinformation falls into a
different category of responsibility.

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By drbhelthi, February 26, 2011 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

The art work of the drawing is commendably precise, and which clearly
conveys the concept of abusing children. 

However, anyone who has any experience with such a machine gun knows
that most children, of the size shown, have difficulty even picking
up the weapon, much less holding it as this child is depicted to be

As far as the swastikas, you might update your acquaintance with the
USGov since the end of WWII, “Operation Paper Clip,”  the history of
the GHWBushSr family, the history of the CIA, the Chronicles of Chip
Tatum, the various releases of Colonel John Stockwell, and the fifty
year history of the CIA, as provided by US Congressman from Texas,
Dr. Ron Paul. 

If you should do this, the swastikas might have a bit more meaning to

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By rico, suave, February 24, 2011 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

Well it’s obvious the wall art, which appears pretty good, is an NRA ad, even as it tries to appeal to eight year old terrorist/gang/crew wannabes. Maybe they’re hurting for new members. Why shouldn’t some liberal fuddy duddy drop a (backwards) swastika on the little cherub, to show her displeasure with the glorification of gun violence as a solution to parking tyranny?

Grafitti by any other name is still grafitti. If the Mona Lisa was painted on that wall, it would still be vandalism.

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By streetart?, February 24, 2011 at 7:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m not a big fan of the swastika or anything, but the beauty of street art is that it is responsive to the community. It is constantly changing, and it undermines the idea of being able to “own” (monopolize use) of something that is seen every day by all the residents in a community. Again, I’m not a fan of the symbol of the swastika, but, for some reason, I feel that the creation of street art by someone who actually lives in LA, no matter how banal and offensive that art is, should be respected even more than the street art of someone who was simply visiting.

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By mick in nz, February 24, 2011 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

P.S. Len the work in question is a stencil ! Duh!

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By mick in nz, February 24, 2011 at 6:14 am Link to this comment

Len Bouchard considers a bland wall “high art” and probably has no skills with pen or brush…he resents people with a creative bend because it makes him feel inadequate .Suck it up Len ,people like you would make it a very boring world ,just like your life is !

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By Len Bouchard, February 24, 2011 at 12:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Banksy is a vandal, even if some people consider him to be chic—people whose walls or property are not being defaced by Banksy and Banksy-wannabes.  In any case, how do you know who really is doing the painting, especially since Banksy seems to favor stencils.

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By DaveZx3, February 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

Is that you Night Gaunt?

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By Curmudgeon in Chief, February 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Destroying street art is vandalism.

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By mick in nz, February 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Banksy’s work is pure genius presented by art !

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By mad_world, February 22, 2011 at 9:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If people didn’t suck we wouldn’t need so many passwords.

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By Christ on a crust, February 22, 2011 at 6:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The difference between “public art” and “vandalism” is proportional to the bullshit quotient of the “critic” observing them.

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By JohnMcD, February 22, 2011 at 6:45 am Link to this comment

Bittersweet?  In an era of digital permanence, I think
the temporary nature of street art appeals just a bit
more than it might otherwise.  Well, at least it does
for me!

There will always be photo and video records, but
seeing something so fleeting in person will add a
special aspect to the moment.

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By ummmm, February 22, 2011 at 5:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m pretty sure that’s still vandalism.

Who the hell paints on peoples’ walls without permission?

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By sam..., February 22, 2011 at 4:19 am Link to this comment

In the early 80’s I worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago as an art installer, crate builder, whatever. As an artist I built sculptural musical instruments so when Chicago and the MCA sponsored that year’s New Music America festival and several sound sculptures were commissioned from different international artists, I was fortunate enough to assist a couple of them in installing their pieces. None of the exterior/landscape pieces lasted more than a couple of days without being at least damaged if not completely destroyed. No matter what you put out there, how wonderful it might be, there’s some one who wants to destroy it.  I learned back then not to bother unless the site is somehow secured. That’s just the way it is. Street/graffiti artists understand this unfortunate truth.

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