By Ofer Caspi
As any alligator-armed gallerist and pie-eyed budding artist is sure to know: Banksy is the Hunger Games. Pull a Banksy and you’re set, you’ve arrived. Thus, we’ve counted quite a few Banksys and Banksy wannabes, mainly from, you’ve guessed it, London, at The Armory Show this year, some of them even trying to out-Banks the head rabble-rouser himself. This kind of mammoth exhibition, a mighty chest thump from some of the globe’s most affluent galleries, is bound to make galleries dig deep into their reserves, pull out any conceivable ace in the hole or in lack of one, some wild cards. So Banksy imitators get their moment in the sun, side by side with…uh, shall we say lower tier, pieces of old masters in the likes of Miro, Picasso and Lichtenstein which are ceremoniously pranced to center stage.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I totally relate to the Bansky hopefuls – I’ve been trying to pull off a Hunger Games clone for years, one with a vicious yet cheeky twist to call my own (Octogenarians… that’s right). But in the name of slutty Minerva, why Banksy?! This is such an obvious, sophomoric, insipid, spineless, imitation choice it makes a Sundae look bold. To all the Picasso postulants out there: Why don’t you do the Don Quixote (not to confuse with Don Draper) thing and mimic some sulky, quirky, non-ladies-man geezer like Braque, or Klee! Now that would be a statement.
And why would a Swedish gallery, of all places, play right into my snarky theme and jubilantly flaunt out on display a piece with an exaggerated sex doll?! Oh, I get it, it’s reverse self-irony.
Speaking of sex dolls, The Armory Show gives off a distinct and familiar vibe: One of Red Light Districts. Same seedy looks, suggestive smiles and phosphoric hues, all intended to bait the interested party into the right coveted booth, with the allure of a life changing experience or at least a quick release. Conceptually speaking, of course.
But in The Armory Show case, the mutually interested parties should definitely get a room. A coulisse or a fancy Pipe & Drape as furnished in the convention just won’t do: These hush hush dealings, these sweet talking duologues need more than a set piece. Only the discreetness of a real chamber will bring the reticent tryst to a fruitful transaction and a gratifying conclusion. That’s why, painfully unlike the Red Light District etiquette (yes, there is such a thing), as far as we’ve noticed, no greasy bills changed hands and no brittle checkbooks were pulled out. Business cards are swapped with an in-the-know nod and names are judiciously penciled into discreet journals – the assignation will be picked up on the gallerist awe-inspiring territory a few hours or a day later. The suitor may wish to get down to business and do the dirty deed right then and there, but the gallerists are too slick and experienced for that – they’ve been around the block more than a few times. Unlike auctions where the thrill of the hunt or just good old plain swagger gets the better of bidders, here, at this country fair, this barnyard sale, allowed one-on-one face-off-time with the wholesaler, with all his competitors looking, they were hoping to walk away with a Lichtenstein at mere mortals’ cost. The gallerists, on their part, may tactically schedule a condensed round of bargaining appointments with a few prospective buyers, hoping to get that bidding ball rolling after all, but skipping the auction house sore commission, the confidentiality of their closed doors, not to mention the need to triumphantly announce ‘a sell ’ come the end of the fair, may offer them a ladder to climb down from their high horse and still save face with a handsome profit.
Lastly, we’ll just go ahead and say it: global art is sponsored by radical Islam. Or vice versa. Well, the extremists are doing well on their own, thanks, but seriously, where would political art be without the constant incendiary subject matter supply from these guys? It’s simply Booming (inexcusable pun, I know)! Now, here are some useful guidelines: The Arab child with the woes of the world gloomy eyes takes over, replacing the acquiescent Tibetan youngster who in his turn took over for the dismayed Vietnamese war toddler. Also, slap aق or aش across the canvas and you’re in the game. Immediately you see the three cons: conversant, controversial, contemplative – Hey, look at you, you’re pulling off political art. It’s dynamite! Or better yet: C4!