Design Curator: Uniqueness

Pablo Picasso once said, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.”  When a legendary artist spouts a maxim it’s best for us to listen and try to understand. Does Picasso want us to be criminals? I think not. He just wants us to be unique. When I think of the bad artists who copy my mind goes to Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary created by the British street artist Banksy.

Banksy keeps his identity hidden while making graffiti more acceptable to the public. From his own intricate stencils, he designs humorous and thought-provoking work–containing political and social commentary–that appears on walls, bridges and streets throughout the world’s cities. Banksy’s stencil art showcases his worldview, which may contain sentiments that are anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism or anti-authoritarianism. His subjects often include rats, monkeys, policemen, soldiers, children and the elderly. He has even gone as far as building physical prop pieces–placed in public places–to communicate a message.

So, when Banksy created his documentary there was an inherent message, which begged the question: what makes someone an artist? The Banksy film chronicles the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant living in L.A.  Guetta was portrayed as being camera obsessed. He filmed every mundane life activity and eventually filmed street artists in the middle of their work. Guetta built his connections all the way to Shepard Fairey who eventually connected Guetta with Banksy.

It wasn’t long before Banksy and Fairey discovered Guetta’s lack of talents. As a way to keep Guetta occupied Banksy told Guetta to make his own art show. Consequently, Guetta began to call himself Mr. Brainwash and paid other artists to make copies of art works with minor additions. To Banksy and Fairey’s surprise Guetta’s art show  was a huge success, selling millions of dollars worth of art in the first week of the show.

Guetta falls into the category of the ‘bad artist’ in Picasso’s maxim. If Guetta was a good artist he would have taken the inspiration he received ( I don’t even think he was inspired) from other art works and translated it into something unique and new; not a clone, but a glorious phoenix rising from the ashes. Why copy when you can steal? Make something your own. Make it unique.

Elizabeth Wann ~ Writer and Designer

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