Graffiti as art: is Banksy responsible for guerilla pieces? |

Graffiti as art: is Banksy responsible for guerilla pieces?

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

At least three pieces of graffiti appeared in Park City just before the start of the Sundance Film Festival, artwork that closely resembles the handiwork of a famous graffiti artist who is debuting a film during the festival.

The possibility that the graffiti artist, who goes by the name Banksy, was in Park City and is responsible for the works caused a stir the day before the opening of Sundance. City Hall officials and the Park City Police Department were made aware of the pieces, and people passing by a highly visible one on Main Street were stopping and taking pictures with the graffiti.

The Police Department said it received three complaints about graffiti just before the festival. One of the pieces is on the Java Cow building at 402 Main St., on a well-traveled section of the street. The piece on the Java Cow building shows an image of a crouching videographer filming a pink flower. The other two pieces were discovered on a utility box on Heber Avenue close to the Gateway Center, which is the building where the film festival’s main box office is located, and on a white shed on the S.R. 224 entryway across the state highway from the McPolin Farm, according to the police.

A Public Works Department crew removed the graffiti on the shed on Wednesday, Rick Ryan, a Police Department captain, said.

The appearance of the graffiti came as Sundance officials announced that Banksy would show his "Exit Through the Gift Shop" during the festival, billed as his first feature film. Its first screening is scheduled at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Park City Library and Education Center. The name of the film for that time slot and the filmmaker had been guarded.

Ryan said the Police Department was made aware that Banksy might have a film in the festival a month ago. But he also said the police had been told Banksy copycats might come to Park City at the same time. Sundance officials told the Police Department before the festival Banksy had pledged not to put up graffiti while he was in Park City, according to Ryan.

"At this point we don’t know who is responsible. We will not attribute it to Banksy unless we have evidence specific to him being the one responsible," Ryan said.

Ryan said people caught putting up graffiti are typically charged with criminal mischief. The seriousness of the charge depends on the cost of the cleanup.

The graffiti was the buzzed-about topic on Wednesday and Thursday as Sundance organizers, corporate interests and festival-goers were preparing for the Thursday evening opening of Sundance. There was lots of chatter on the Internet about the possibility Banksy made the pieces as well. People promoting Sundance films or movies in other festivals running at the same time have long employed unorthodox techniques to create buzz for their films, but the amount of publicity that Banksy and his film are receiving as a result of the graffiti is unusual.

At Java Cow, Lucia Bisbee, the manager, said she discovered the graffiti on Tuesday morning as she arrived at work at around 7 a.m. She said Java Cow did not grant anyone permission to put the graffiti on the building. The piece was painted onto a south-facing wall. She said she was slightly disappointed at first because Java Cow did not have information about the graffiti, but the coffee shop is considering keeping the graffiti on the building. The idea of keeping the piece had not been thoroughly discussed by Thursday, though, Bisbee said.

"At first, I knew it was something Sundance did. My first reaction was it’s Sundance," Bisbee said. Bisbee said the graffiti on the Java Cow building quickly received lots of coverage in the media, and people familiar with Banksy’s work have started calling Java Cow asking that the piece be kept.

The piece on the Java Cow building has also caught the attention of many passers-by who are stopping and taking pictures of the graffiti, sometimes with someone posing with the piece. At midday on Thursday, Danielle Cubis, who is from Melbourne, Australia, snapped a photo of the graffiti at Java Cow, saying she has seen pieces attributed to Banksy in Melbourne.

"I just know he’s a famous graffiti artist," Cubis said. "Who knows how long that piece will last?"

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