Police Lead Crackdown on Banksy Art and Street Graffiti Ahead of London Olympics 2012


I just finished washing the bottom of my paint-covered feet. It wasn't some postmodern performance art, just another day teaching summer camp. Today we painted on a large handball-sized piece of paper tacked and taped on the handball court. Our mural (using the term loosely) is temporary art. But unlike those in London, we do not fear a police crackdown as a result of splatter-paint, hearts, handprints and swirls. 

Peculiar events in London leave me questioning: What is art? How do we define it? And why on earth are authorities in London so threatened by it? 

Despite the fact that London authorities in Olympic venue areas have stated that any public graffiti will be "power washed, as soon as it is discovered," it is yet to be seen whether this applies to notable street artist Banksy. In his latest work, Banksy uses the Olympics as inspiration. With a javelin thrower throwing what looks like a missile, and a pole vaulter jumping over a barbed-wire fence.

In The Atlantic Wire, Adam Martin discusses the fact that London's effort to clean up graffiti may "squelch the work of one of its biggest celebrities." 

Jonathon Jones defends street art in The Guardian (London 2012: the graffiti clampdown is like Versailles versus the sans-culottes), saying, "Street art is seen by the Olympics as a problem to be solved. It's not, it's part of London's identity, and a reason why people visit."

Jones argues, "The Olympic suppression of graffiti and street art is a chilling sign that instead of magnifying or rekindling the reputation London now has for outrageous art and irrepressible creativity, this corporate behemoth is canceling out the capital's attractions and drawing attention to its weaknesses."

The arrests of other local street artists, such as Darren Cullen (who is not allowed to own paint or use most public transportation) borders on some kind of old-school polics state.

Bamksy's art should be left up, but so should the art of others who are exploring and experimenting using the walls of London as their canvas. Let's see how long summer camp art can stay taped to the handball court before the authorities find it!