They say all art is subjective, and no artform is more contentious than graffiti. Some might say even a detailed mural is defacing public property, while others might consider a bawdy limerick on a bathroom wall to be social commentary. In recent years, artists like Banksy have elevated graffiti to public art. This Lego fellow cleverly rendered in 3-D shows his love for the city of Tel Aviv, taken by Flickr user mjlacey, as a great example of fun and positive street art.
You don’t expect rampant urban culture in the sultry South Pacific, but it’s there. That’s because like it or not, Papeete is a relatively big city that’s home to about half the population of French Polynesia, or about 130,000 people. Also, the city will never run out of reinforced concrete walls and frustrated youth.
Tourists are funny about graffiti-we like it in places like Berlin or in Banksy’s latest coffee table book but tend to get uppity if it’s the backdrop to our tropical honeymoon. But judge not. Graffiti is a fairly honest art form-the subjects and sayings that get sprayed across the blank walls of any city says a lot about the place. In Papeete you’ll find a mix of adolescent tagging to bigger displays of initials and elaborate paintings with Polynesian motifs. Word on the street is that the Polynesian graffiti renaissance is on.
Some come one, come all! Pack up your stencils and spray cans, Tahiti’s open for coloring . . . except that it’s not. Anyone caught “vandalizing” anything bigger than a broken cinder block gets an automatic 4,000 Euro fine. Last year, 35 aspiring artists were charged en masse.
Better to enjoy the artwork of the risk-takers by day. A walk through the downtown backstreets of Papeete reveals the signs of many busy artists, as does the skate park and surrounding areas in the suburb of Faaa. But venture out into other islands and you’ll find good and bad art scribbled everywhere. Even the abandoned swimming pools of Moorea are fair game for les graffitistes.
To get connected with the Tahitian street art scene, visit the island’s Kreativ Concept Association, which is an innocent collective of “fresco and mural enthusiasts.” They also happen to sell spray paint, stencils, and T-shirts that read “Graffiti is not a crime.”
Rebel artist Banksy‘s Pet Store exhibit enters its last week starting today, so if you haven’t had the chance to see the creepiness first hand, stop by Seventh Ave. to check it out. The exhibit, featuring a variety of animatronic foodstuffs (and vice versa) closes this Friday and is a dialouge on the treatment of animal’s in today’s culture.
” New Yorkers dont care about art, they care about pets. So Im exhibiting them instead. I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming, but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing. I took all the money I made exploiting an animal in my last show and used it to fund a new show about the exploitation of animals. If its art and you can see it from the street, I guess it could still be considered street art.”
So just how creepy is the exhibit? Take a look at some of these chicken nuggets hanging out near the henhouse and tell me that you didn’t just lose your appetite. Yuck.
Looking at the amazing street graffiti in Barcelona last week, I was struck by the complexity and quality of many of the compositions. No, I’m not an art critic, but some of the pieces were fantastically done and could have held their ground in a modern art museum anywhere across the world.
Where Barcelona has rich, sprawling artistic graffiti, London and New York now have Banksy.
If you’re not familiar with the moniker, you may recognize his hijinks; his trademark work is all over the London landscape and has effectively been bleeding into the US. Recently, Banksy made headlines by sneaking his pieces into the Tate Britain, MOMA and American Museum of Natural History. To the embarrassment of curators and critics alike, many of the pieces have gone unnoticed in their respective places for days.
Luckily, the art world is starting to take notice of the artist’s talents. This week, the famous British graffiti artist opened a temporary exhibition in Chelsea (New York) at the Vanina Holasek Gallery. You can stop by and visit the exhibit through the end of this month.