Celebrity Satirist Hanksy’s Latest Stunt Targets the “Street Art Show”

Hansky's decided to give the art world the kind of spectacle it wants.

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New York City’s number one street art satirist, Hanksy, is set to take over a former Chase Bank space at 104 on Delancey Street for his show, “Best of the Worst,” entirely created and funded on his own. This weekend, March 28 and 29, Hanksy will present a new series of installations and painted works on wood, alongside which there will be a group show of murals and works by local and international artists including Cope2, Russell King, Elle, and Kosbe. The space will be completely transformed into a sort of ’90s variety show of your dreams with skateboarders, arcade games, a dumpling cart, and other urban-carnival-like phenomena that convey the notion: no one goes to art shows for the art.

“I’m just trying to play up all the clichés of street art shows, multiplied by 10,” Hanksy told artnet News. “Like, let’s fill this show with so much visual stimulation and so much stunning bullshit that the last thing people look at is the art. And all the pieces are made of ‘found and salvaged wood from the streets of Brooklyn,’” he said in a mocking tone. “Collectors cream over those words.” (For more on street art see Jerry Saltz on Why Street Art Throwdown Is Complete Crap and Reality TV Show Street Art Throwdown Promises to Discover Next Banksy).

If you need to familiarize yourself with Hanksy’s work, you’d sooner learn more about him through social media than on the street. He first appeared roughly four years ago when he created a work that superimposed actor Tom Hanks’s face on an image of Banky’s infamous rat stencil on a wall on the Lower East Side. It was shared on social media, and Hanksy was born.

Since then, his pieces have evolved into other pun-centric celebrity parody mash-ups like an image of Bill Nye the Science Guy with the caption “Get Rich or Nye Tryin” or like his “Lil Wayne Deer” piece, featuring the rap artist’s head fused to a reindeer’s body. The common thread throughout his work is that while they’re born at a moment on the street, they’re inspired by, and live forever on the Internet.

“I’m definitely a child of the Internet,” said Hanksy. “Knock the Internet, and the social media takeover of urban art, but at the end of the day it’s really spreading the message. Is it diluting it a little bit? Yes for sure, but now you’re getting ideas and techniques worldwide, and it’s amazing. So I’m never hating on Instagram.”

His interest in the platform is, in a way, how he’s come to create “Best of the Worst.” After seeing much of the art world reduced to hand shakes, “sceney” gatherings, and make-your-friends-jealous Instagram posts, the artist decided to give the art world the kind of spectacle that it wants.

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“Best of the Worst,” will be “theater for the eyes,” as Hanksy put it, and chock full of overwhelming visual stimulation, so much so that, if all goes according to plan, the goings on will all become visual noise to the viewer, and only perhaps then will attendees begin to look around for the actual works of art.

The street art jokester often describes his own work as “pure sugar” and “not that skilled.” As you’re seeing “Best of the Worst,” whether through your iPhone or while making a Vine video, remember that Hanksy is more of an artist than he lets on.

Hanksy is undoubtedly documenting the current insatiable media-hungry culture, obsessed with cataloging and sharing everything in sight. With his concise, memorable, and punny tags in his celebrity-based work, he’s documenting a culture whose favorite forms of expression are short hashtag-like catchphrases, and whose idols are the celebrities who have garnered the most followers on Twitter; he’s capturing a way of life that’s all about immediate gratification and immersion in an interminable flood of imagery that becomes a blurred “theater for the eyes.” “Best of the Worst,” is a show that speaks to ways of viewing in 2015.

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