Monday, July 29, 2013

Professional Vandals


The professionalisation of street art is nothing new, so why do some career artists still conceal their commercial strategies behind their anarchist personas? Because it’s cool, right?

Let’s have a look at DALeast‘s recent excursion to London that saw 7 new walls culminate in his first solo exhibition in the British capital. One of those walls went over Jimmy C‘s portrait of Usain Bolt without any consultation. Maybe you’d say, ‘So what? It’s an ephemeral art form, get used to it’. Maybe, but the fact that DALeast went to the trouble to get permission from the building’s owner whilst disregarding Jimmy C does say something about his priorities. What’s more interesting is DALeast’s own excuse.
When Jimmy C found DALeast painting over his mural, the newcomer shrugged an apology down from the scissor lift and explained that his ‘manager’ had organised the wall for him. When RJ in a recent interview with DALeast asked ‘what makes you want to paint a particular wall or not’ the artist simply replied, ‘fate’ which sounds so much cooler than ‘my manager picks my walls for me’. It’s easy to see why DALeast would avoid that part of the picture but it does makes you wonder what a professional street artist really is.
As it turns out,
DALeast’s manager is none other than the owner of the popular blog StreetArtNews (edit) the ‘manager’ DALeast was referring to seems to have been Rom from StreetArtNews, who while not technically DALeast’s manager did help to organize some of DALeast’s walls in London and worked with him on the contest/gallery show project he did there. StreetArtNews regularly features DALeast’s work whilst neglecting to mention any conflict of interest. I guess it must be handy to have a
manager (edit) business partner who runs a trusted publicity platform but, for those of us who view street art as a DIY counterculture, we’d better get used to questioning where our ‘news’ comes from.
Traditionally, the journey from vandal to professional starts with the artist’s first commissioned piece which leads to bigger and bigger murals and ends with a show for Jeffery Deitch and a line of sneakers. You’d think that this career trajectory might have become boring by now, and let’s hope that it has, but old market strategies will always be replaced by fresh ones that find new ways to feed the bottomless appetite for adolescent rebellion.
With a new spin on an old cliché, artists assume the pose of ‘fuck the system’ until their audience wise up to the contradictory and masturbatory claims of an industry that apparently aims to fuck itself. Moving on, the informed audience is quickly replaced by the next crop of pubescent rebels, all too eager to buy the OBEY cap, adopt Brooklyn slang and congratulate themselves for being authentic.
For anyone that believes street art can be more than the lucrative exploitation of teen angst, it’s important to call bullshit whenever it appears. Put simply, be a capitalist, or, be an anarchist, just don’t tell us you’re both.
-This article was originally published by Vandalog on July 2nd, 2013 -

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