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Is Banksy's New York City residency over?

October 23, 2013|By Deborah Vankin

The Banksy-bonanza in New York City is stalled -- at least temporarily.

So far this month, the prankster British street artist has put on a colorful, frenetic treasure hunt of sorts with his monthlong “artists residency,” “Better Out Than In.” His graphic, often cheeky guerrilla art installations -- which he promotes on his website and Instagram -- have mysteriously popped up, in the dark of night, in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

But the fun may be coming to an early end.

On Wednesday, Banksy’s website -- which typically features a daily photo of the latest work to go up -- displayed just this cryptic message: “Today’s art has been canceled due to police activity.”

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New York’s outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg may be behind the crackdown. During a news conference last week at the opening of a water tunnel running beneath Central Park, Bloomberg brought up Banksy.

“…Nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am,” he said. “I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you 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.”

Or perhaps police have intervened on behalf of less-than-enthused residents of the boroughs being used as a large scale canvas. On Monday, the first Banksy work went up in the South Bronx. Residents of East 153rd Street complained about the mural, which featured a little boy in shorts spray-painting "Ghetto 4 Life" on the wall, with his butler standing beside him.

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"It's lazy and it's ridiculous," Karah Shaffer, 29, told the New York Daily News. “Having a kid with spray paint and his butler writing 'Ghetto 4 Life' in the South Bronx is an easy way to perpetuate the way people think about the South Bronx."

On Tuesday morning, the anonymous artist’s sphinx-like sculpture in Queens caused a scuttlebutt, says the New York Observer, when the man who stumbled on it first claimed ownership of it and tried to sell off pieces.

Given Banksy’s propensity for urban pranks, however -- not to mention his less than subtle anti-establishment bent -- the message on his website itself could be a red herring. Or an interactive art installation itself.

But that’s Banksy – you never know for sure.


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