Writing On The Wall

Banksy’s memorial piece for Robbo. Not how the “Flammable” sign becomes a vigil candle and the incorporation of Robbo’s original piece. Flickr/Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0)

The blogger known as FEWbar made me aware of an absolutely wonderful feud between street artist Banksy and old-school underground graffiti artist King Robbo. A sort of friendly competition between two stages in the evolution of graffiti as an art form, two sets of values and two iterations of the same mode of expression used for different things.

The whole thing took place from 2009 to 2011 at the site of an early, defaced piece from the mid 80s by King Robbo. The archaeological relic of the mythic days of graffiti was lost in scrawls and tagged over by successive generations of appropriators. Along comes Banksy and makes a new work out of it, equal parts insult and homage. And a feud with the aging graffiti artist ensued, both redecorating the same piece.

Eventually, the battle ended up taking a tragic turn, with Robbo suffering a debilitating (and, one hopes, unrelated) head-injury, and a tremendously moving homage by Banksy was put up at the end of the game, seen above. Robbo sympathisers seem in the ensuing months to have defaced some of Banksy’s work with less intelligence than Robbo and Banksy brought to the game. I also think that Banksy definitely outclassed Robbo, but then, I’m an elitist snob.

The entire blow-by-blow can be seen here.


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