I ran across this quote the other day and it really got me thinking. If you aren’t familiar with Banksy or his work, you should really check out his website (here). (He is a graffiti artist who uses stencils to create his work. He is decidedly against commercialism and refuses to sell his work. His images are simple, yet very striking.)
I used to work as a graphic artist for a toy company. The best designs and graphic work I have ever done were for advertisements and packaging. Now I am not trying to say that the world was robbed of some great genius by my using my talents commercially, but the fact remains: my best pieces of art were advertisements.
By playing off Winston Churchill’s, Banksy has managed to hit a nerve. An enormous amount of work and creativity is put into advertising, and one has to wonder, if Rubens was alive today, what are odds that he would be pumping out Camel Lights billboards instead of painting Massacre of the Innocents. Now I’m definitely not trying to bag on advertising. I work in in an industry that essentially exists as nothing more than an excuse to show advertisements. And I like my job.
But Banksy still has made me think, and has raised some god questions. Are corporations depriving us of better art? If art created as advertisement is intrinsically less valuable, what does that mean for religious art? It is interesting how an artist’s motives determine the value of a work. I can’t help thinking how strange it is that Andy Warhol could paint a Campbell’s soup can and it is worth incredible sums of money, but the original person that designed the can that Warhol copied exactly is not only unknown but was also given a relatively small paycheck.
I don’t completely agree with Banksy’s indictment of Modern Art, and it does seem that an already controversial artist is deliberately courting even more controversy, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to think through how we look at art and advertising.