Good news if you have always longed to own a work of the anonymous British street artist Banksy. To make it your own, however, you have to be ready to shell out at least three hundred thousand pounds. In the coming days the masterpiece “Vettriano, Beach Rescue” will be available again on the market. The oil, performed by the artist in 2005, shows, as most of his creations, an act of transgression and of insolent provocation.
What is interesting is that the level of competition between Banksy and Vettriano borders, thanks to this sale event, the field of contemporary art getting on the market. The market, we all know, makes no prisoners. Here are the first hits: the original work of Vettriano was sold for a staggering £ 744.800 during a glorious auction at Sotheby’s in 2004. The auction was suspect and saw his final blows between two mysterious phone-bidders. Voices insinuate the overestimation for promotional purpose of the work, which was subsequently depreciated and sold for amounts of less than 300,000 pounds. Then today Banksy’s work seems to have all it takes to exceed the market value of the original, of which was originally targeted precisely to protest against the disproportionate media emphasis of a controversial artwork painted by a “nobody” who just discovered himself the most famous British artist. Jack Vettriano is in fact what we might call a strange type, one of the few Scottish artists having gained fame and success, although according to objectionable procedures and actions. The influential British critic has always branded his productions as empty exercises of style. Critics, however, have been refuted by the appreciation of the democratic public that gave Jack an unexpected success, and – it is to say – mainly thanks to the sale of limited edition reproductions of his works. A big profit that could not save Jack to disqualification and a huge fine for driving under the influence of alcohol aggravated by drug possession.
Let’s get to the work of Banksy “Beach Rescue”: an oil mash-up on canvas of Vettriano’s “The Singing Butler” piece that depicts a couple dancing on a windy beach. The central couple was copied by Vettriano from an economical manual for artists, the figures of servants – said him – were installed in order to balance the composition. Banksy removes the character of the maid and replaces her with two people in anti-contamination suit carrying a barrel of crude oil. In the background a tanker sinking. As in many of his works in mash-up style, Banksy manages to shine an eerily ironic tone, the couple seems surprised because of the observation of the strange happenings: the romance of the scene is broken. Banksy chooses popular visual icons and uses them like a trojan horse to catapult his distracted victims in the scene of his usual banal genius. Many times I have been asked to frame the production of Banksy according to the canons of expression of contemporary art trends. Unfortunately it is not easy, but the real problem is that it is not even possible: the British artist uses many different ways, ranging through the technique of mash-up drawing experimenting the characteristics of Romantic painting, realism, pop. The paintings of Banksy are hidden mines that operate as would do a virus inside a living organism. Dynamics compatible with the acknowledged system are designed and put in place to disorder it from inside. Tolstoy wrote in 1897: “The artist of the future will understand that to compose a fairy-tale, a little song which will touch, a lullaby or a riddle which will entertain, a jest which will amuse, or to draw a sketch which will delight dozens of generations or millions of children and adults, is incomparably more important and more fruitful than to compose a novel or a symphony, or paint a picture which will divert some members of the wealthy classes for a short time, and then be for ever forgotten. The region of this art of the simple feelings accessible to all is enormous, and it is as yet almost untouched.” I think Tolstoy would not appreciate the work of either artists but I can honestly admit that I could not find better words to describe one of Banksy’s most successful intervention on the misunderstood masterpiece by Jack Vettriano. Congratulations to the next wealthy owner.