Banksy Is Dead: Banksy Hits LA For His Oscar Nomination - UPDATED

One of Banksy's most recent pieces

In anticipation for the Academy Awards on Feb 27th, cloak and dagger British graffiti artist Banksy has returned to Los Angeles with new work. The quasi-Banksy documentary "Exit Through The Giftshop" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature with Banksy as director. I say quasi because the documentary is mostly about Thierry Guetta, the man also known as graffiti artist Mr. Brainwash. I haven't seen the film until recently and what I take away from it is that Mr. Brainwash is nothing more than a plagiarizing megalomaniac. The only controversy in his work is if Guetta knew what he was doing, or if he was just self-delusional. Banksy along with comrade in arts Shepard Fairey reluctantly and practically out of pity helped Guetta with his debut art show that ended up grossing one million dollars in sales in it's first week. Suffice to say, Guetta was a genius for finagling his way so quickly into the realm of graffiti art royalty. Banksy made it clear in the film he was not pleased, and the film might have been purposed to expose Mr. Brainwash for who he is and how easily art can corrupted into a wildly profitable money making scheme. Let the film be a warning to any Mr. Brainwash art buyer.
 Guetta/Mr. Brainwash at his solo exhibit in NYC, Feb 2010

Click through to see more of Banksy's latest work:

But the timing of Banky's recent return to Los Angeles mirrors the hype he created for his 2006 art exhibit "Barely Legal" which drew thousands of viewers including the very top of the A-List. In the weeks before the show opened, Banky's pieces popped up seemingly overnight, particularly in Hollywood along La Brea Ave, creating a media frenzy and more than a few confused building owners. I mean, Banksy's no dummy: he's a master of harnessing hype and controversy, particularly about his art and his own intentions. His opening credits for The Simpsons last year is a perfect example. It's still not clear if the choice was flagrant self-promotion, an exposé on the animation industry or just a vehicle to get people thinking.

The same can be thought of his recent work before the Oscars. Is he just making fun of the whole idea of Hollywood awarding itself? Banksy is predicted to win the category, so he in turn could be no better than the celebrity audience. I'm not trying to knock Banksy, I love his work. But I can't help but raise questions and attempt to decontruct him. I imagine Banksy and Daft Punk shopping for napkin rings at Crate and Barrel together, masks off, with no one the wiser. UPDATE: The Academy flat out refused to let Banksy accept the award in disguise if he were to win. This is due to the fact security measures would be compromised. Since no one knows who he is, any number of strangers can claim his identity. That in and of itself is art to me! So my original idea of getting a bunch of randoms to dress in black hoodies and monkey masks and see who can infiltrate the Oscars couldn't work.

POST OSCARS UPDATE: Bansky did not win (understandably as the other nominees had much more affecting topics), and no, Justin Timberlake is NOT Banksy.

With all of Banksy's success, it must be a constant battle to retain his reputation as a street artist. Success is in direct conflict with the significance of the street art movement. One of Banksy's pieces was cut right out of the wall and replaced by a sign:

When people are revolting against street art, not because it "ruins" the walls, but because the art itself has been "ruined," who then become the rebels? Has Banksy turned graffiti into the equivalent of leaving stacks of cash on the street? Does monetary worth render graffiti art meaningless? Whatever Banksy's intentions may be, he's coming dangerously close to losing credibility.
More of Banksy's recent LA works
3 new pieces confirmed on Feb 22nd: