BANKSY: COMPLETED – a book by Carol Diehl
The book: The first in-depth investigation into the hidden meaning and social, political, and artistic impact of the work of the world famous and anonymous street artist, Banksy.
The author: Carol Diehl, artist and art critic, longtime contributor to Art in America and ARTnews.
The publisher: The MIT Press of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Kickstarter goals: The initial goal ($22,500) will cover Phases 1 and 2 of the project. Phase 1 will fund the writing of the second half of the book ($10,000), and Phase 2, the logistics and costs of acquiring photo permissions ($10,000+) and the required index ($2500). Anything beyond the initial goal will fund Phase 3: promotion: including a website, book tours and hopefully, hiring a publicist.
Rewards: Book cost and publishing date are as yet unknown as well as final title and cover design. Aiming for late 2020. All reward books will be signed by the author.
Why I’m writing this book: Street artist, vandal, political activist, and film director, the anonymous Banksy’s escapades are inevitably world news, yet he has not been acknowledged as the innovative and influential artist he is. While previous books have documented Banksy’s work with photographs, mine will be the first to deeply examine Banksy’s cultural significance.
What sets Banksy apart from other street artists—or any artists—is that he’s a provocateur on a grand scale, a master at grasping the current political situation and mirroring it back succinctly and humorously, setting off waves of controversy that crosses international borders. Through his adept use of social media, Banksy connects with his fans as well as his adversaries, who often end up acting as his involuntary publicity agents—like Mayor Bloomberg, whose remarks about graffiti caused the New York Daily News to splash its front page with two words: “GET BANKSY!”
The art world is always skeptical of artists who are overly popular with the public, especially those, like Banksy, whose work brings staggering sums at auction—and at first, I was one of them. However after frequent visits to England, where Banksy is considered something of a national treasure, and having my mind bent while watching his 2011 Academy Award-nominated film, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” I began to suspect the public might have more insight into the elusive artist than the experts, whose reviews have been generally scornful and even uninformed. I determined to do the research my fellow art critics neglected, and the more I delved into Banksy’s seemingly flippant art and writings, the more substance I found—including philosophical underpinnings based in such diverse sources as Greek mythology and post-Holocaust political theory.
The questions Banksy has raised over the last 20 years about the uses of public and private property, the role of the global “corporatocracy,” governmental incursions into privacy, the never-ending wars, and the gap between artworks as luxury goods and vehicles of social and individual expression, have become increasingly relevant, almost prescient. Yet while Banksy’s art is political, in the sense that it’s intended to inspire change, it is not bound to a particular ideology but exhibits a strong sense of inclusivity and humanism that crosses political and cultural boundaries.
What’s inside: The book’s title, Banksy: Completed, was inspired by a painting Banksy did on the streets of New York, which depicted a dog peeing on a fire hydrant and a thought bubble floating from the hydrant that read, “You complete me.” In that way, Banksy’s pieces are like John Cage’s Happenings, which Cage said were intended to “catch a fish the nature of which we do not know” – the “fish” in this case, being the unpredictable events that unfold after the painting goes on the wall.
Along with discussions of Banksy’s artistic origins and relevance, the book includes several chapters in the artist’s history starting with Banksy’s self-styled New York “residency” of 2013 where, every day for a month, he generated at least one public work somewhere in the five boroughs, turning the city into a giant scavenger hunt. Next, I look into the story precipitated by a single piece, Art Buff, Banksy’s unofficial entry in the 2014 Folkestone (U.K.) Triennial. Sited on a wall at the cross-section of greed and philanthropy, Art Buff caused a spin-off of intrigue, legal wrangling, gentrification, and art world commentary that continues today—with a surprise ending that shows that little in Banksy’s world happens by accident.
Then I tour Banksy’s sprawling magnum opus, Dismaland where he fashioned a derelict amusement park in coastal England into a dystopian anti-Disneyland. Open for five weeks in 2015, Banksy’s 2.5 acre “family theme park unsuitable for children” was dedicated to the failure of capitalism, with concerts, film, miniature golf (or rather miniature “Gulf” with an appropriate oil spill), a whacked-out Cinderella’s castle, games that were impossible to win, a terrifying carousel, disgruntled park guides, vegetarian food stands, and an art gallery—in all featuring 10 of his works and that of 58 other artists from around the world. Dismaland drew150,000 visitors to the struggling town of Weston-super-Mare, boosting the local economy by £20 million. After it was over and Dismaland was broken down, Banksy went to Calais with lumber and a crew to build shelters for the refugees.
Finally, I visit Banksy’s latest example of artistic activism, a fully functioning hotel in one of the world’s most conflicted areas. Touted as having “the worst view in the world,” it overlooks the West Bank barrier wall in Palestinian Bethlehem. Opened in 2017, the Walled Off (as opposed to Waldorf) Hotel features six guest rooms, a “Presidential Suite,” equipped with a hot tub, bar, and mini-theatre (“everything a corrupt head of state would need”), and a “Budget Barracks” dorm, outfitted with army surplus cots—all artist-designed and decorated. Facilities include a bookshop, a gallery devoted to Palestinian artists, and a museum that has become an ongoing repository for local stories, artifacts, and testimonies about the wall. Now regularly visited by tours coming to the holy sites, the Walled Off is fulfilling Banksy’s intention of attracting visitors to learn more about the conditions there, as well as bringing an economic revival to an area whose business was decimated by the building of the wall. Among the few house rules, “absolutely no fanaticism is allowed on the premises.”
Over the past four years my research has taken me from New York to England to the Middle East, funded through the generosity of friends who believe in this project. I’ve written the first half of the manuscript, and contracted with a distinguished publisher—The MIT Press—who will print and distribute the book to a general audience.
Now that might make you think that the project is home free—that all I have to do is finish the book and be on to the next! However, authors today must take on many of the responsibilities and expenses publishing houses once covered. Except for a token monetary advance, I will see no income from the book until royalties are paid in June 2020.
In fact, I’ve actually acquired costs. I must provide the index ($2500) and will be responsible for securing permissions for 70 photographs, which could cost $10,000 or more. I’ll need to cover minimal living expenses while I throw myself full time into writing the second half of the manuscript, and after that, will devote my time to promotion, including a website, blog, activity on social media, and travel for book talks.
So, we know the book will be published. Now I just need to finish and promote it.
That’s where you come in—to help complete the remaining phases and ensure that the book’s huge potential can be realized.
This project is already a collaborative effort. Please join us and be among the first to see the finished book. Banksy: Completed can only be realized with your help.
Three ways you can let others know about this project:
Email your friends asking them to check out this Kickstarter page.
Share this Kickstarter page on your Facebook wall or Twitter.
Share or repost the promotional video, which you can find here.
I’m grateful to those who have contributed their talents and funding, beyond anything I could have imagined, to bring this book to life—starting with Christopher Sweet, who has worked tirelessly to connect the book with the perfect publisher; Alex Ross, an artist with an inspired literary eye who has helped me shape it; John Spiak at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana (CA), who gave me a place to work before I knew what the project was and arranged for the first lecture at CSU/Fullerton; former TIME Art Director Arthur Hochstein who designed the potential cover; the remarkable individuals who spontaneously offered to fund my trip to the Middle East; and others who have supported, in so many ways, the writing of the first half of the book. Special thanks to Caren Bayer, Carol Gingles, Margaret Heilbrun, Linda Hirshman, Lucy Holland, Susan Jennings, Seth Jordan, Barry Mayo, Susan Sultan, and Jim Torok.
Thanks to E.S. for shooting and editing the Kickstarter video and Jackson Whalan for the background music. The footage from “Banksy Does New York” is courtesy of Matador Content.
Risks and challenges
Projected date of November 2020 is an estimate—publication could be sooner or later. Title and cover image may change.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (26 days)