Two works by a Modesto artist named David William Noll have revealed that, in Los Angeles, property owners get to decide what is art and what isn't, or at least what is legal and what is illegal. Noll recently recorded himself painting over two Banksy works—"Peeing Dog" on a building on Little Santa Monica near the border of Beverly Hills and Century City and "Girl on Swing" on the Sparkle Factory building on Broadway—and yesterday he pled no contest to two counts of felony vandalism. He was given three years of felony probation and 60 days of community labor, according to TMZ, and has to stay 100 yards from any Banksy works.
Banksy made his name as a bad boy street artist speaking truth to the establishment in works that were anti-capitalist, public, and unauthorized. He didn't ask permission to make what he made where he made it. But eventually he started getting it anyway; jewelry designer Tarina Tarantino, who owns the Sparkle Factory, told Curbed in 2010 that she didn't know anything about "Girl on Swing" before it went up, but that she's in Banksy's social circle and just "got lucky." (NB: The piece also includes the "PARKING" letters the girl hangs from, but Noll must not have known that.) Around the same time, a Banksy piece went up on plywood at a building associated with the Ace Gallery on La Brea and was removed, intact, almost immediately.
Lots of property owners now remove Banksy pieces so they can sell them at auction for pure (and enormous) profit. His "Slave Labour" stencil piece sold for $1.1 million last June; "Flower Girl" from an LA gas station went for $209,000 in December; "Kissing Coppers" from an English pub wall, sold for $575,000 in February. Banksy doesn't condone removal, but he has never, as far as we can find, tried to stop a sale. Banksy doesn't make street art anymore; he gives half-million-dollar gifts to people who own buildings.
The Los Angeles DA's office told TMZ that Banksy was never charged with a crime for creating "Girl on Swing" or "Peeing Dog" because they will only prosecute vandalism if the property owner complains. The police report on Noll's reimagining of "Girl on Swing" says Tarantino believes the piece increases the value of her property by $650,000. Why would she complain?
Banksy is a graffiti artist whose works sell in auction houses for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Noll is an artist who just got charged with felony vandalism for making videos of himself splattering purple paint over a $650,000 piece of street art. If he's not Marcel Duchamp, he's at the very least Briano Eno splashing some urine on "Fountain."
· Banksy Vandal Ordered to STAY CLEAR of Banksy's Vandalous Works! [TMZ]
· Is Mysterious Street Artist Banksy as Illegit as He Says He Is? [Curbed LA]