Day 18 of Banksy’s New York residency appears to have been the most legal of his month-long project thus far. The work of the day (or the weekend, actually) consisted of two large canvases, which sat behind a bench, and had the effect of a makeshift art gallery set up at 506 West 24th Street in an open plot between two buildings in Chelsea. A guard informed guests that this was, in fact, private property and that it was not an illegal display, further informing guests that “we have a permit.” (We are assuming that they actually did have a permit). The security guard informed me that he is on the clock for the property owner; someone at 23 High line LLC, which reportedly donated the space for the temporary installation. So, while Banksy’s works are most commonly illegal works of art, it appears this one was completely legal.
Unlike the makeshift art gallery, the majority of Banksy’s works are, in fact, illegal, as graffiti amounts to vandalism, which, in the state of New York vandalism is covered under the legal definition of “criminal mischief,” among other things, and also falls under other city-specific legislation. While the New York Police Department denies it is actively searching for Banksy, as they have not received any complaints of vandalism, a recent front page of the New York Post with the headline “Get Banksy! NYPD hunts artist” suggests otherwise. Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed Banksy’s NYC residency as a side note during a press conference last week, saying: “Running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art but it should not be permitted. I think that’s exactly what the law says.” Thoughts?