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One Man’s Treasure

Graffiti, A Movement: Judgements and Valuations —

People have been distributing unsolicited art to unappreciative recipients since long before Sylvester Stallone left his “movie prop” on the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum, but it does seem to have become a trend these days.

The bronze Rocky statue, commissioned by Stallone himself, was originally placed atop the Art Museum steps, but it has been moved several times over the years because officials thought it was not art.”
– ABC 6 (Philadelphia)

This begs the question of course: what is art? What, indeed? An unappreciative or uninformed individual may simply not be aware of the value of this or that masterpiece and kick it summarily to the curb. Another may walk by, retrieve it and parlay it into millions.

“Tres Personajes”, Rufino Tamayo

After Indecline deposited a naked Donald Trump Statue with a very small penis in Central Park, The New York City parks department’s response was that:

“NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small, “
– Sam Biederman, a parks spokesman

Being controversial is a tried and true art business model for artists like Damien Hirst, whose dead animals have helped made him UK’s richest living artist. So perhaps it’s no great leap to understand how the art-business of getting arrested has significantly enhanced the monetary value of more than one art career. Graffiti has gotten more than one artist a high end gallery. The transportation authorities may abhor it, but there will be others who admire your daring and entrepreneurship, willing to pay the big bucks.

Artists who go about promoting their work in this fashion will understand that there is are unique risks involved that encompass not only fines and sentences, but valuations that will jump around like a ping pong balls in lottery machines at the slightest erratic condition.

In April of 2007, street artist Banksy’s “Space Girl” and “Bird” sold for around $576,000 at Bonhams of London and in May of the same year he won the award for “Art’s Greatest living Briton,” and his work “The Drinker” was stolen. In March of 2008 a work on a water tower in Holland Park, London, widely attributed to Banksy was branded vandalism and removed in three days.

Shepard Fairey, who President Obama thanked personally for his artwork, was arrested on February 7, 2009, on his way to the premiere of his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and charged with “damage to property.” In particular, he seems to be an artist who was a self-promoter sticker-er who grew, as he continued to practice his craft, into a political art giant.


In California, the vandalism laws revolve around the word “defacement” leaving police personnel as de facto art judges. If you think for a minute about the implications of losing face contained in that word, it would follow that the more insulting your art, the more likely you are to get arrested like my friend, burning-banks artist Alex Shaefer.

As a street artist, I’ve been handcuffed, let go (when the LAPD declared it “good art”) and later paid by LA City Parks for doing similar artwork in the same spot a process I like to call “handcuffs to handouts.”

                                                                                            Photo Credit Jerris Madison

Some people will always really hate street art. When an angry man tries to rip up the anonymous artist, who call himself Plastic Jesus’ “Bars over Trump’s Star” in Hollywood (see video), the bars break because of the industrial strength tape has Jesus used, while bystanders can be overheard defending it as art in the background.

A sledgehammer extravaganza performed by elevator heir James Otis, on the same star however, was branded “vandalism” by critical police in the form of a formal arrest. Whether it was “not art,” “bad art” or just too visionary for an LAPD who does not read ArtForum, they were unable or unwilling to appreciate the creative way in which the art tool employed so elegantly hammered in socio-political metaphors of today. (Otis graciously helped the next artist who came around with the next hammer for a repeat performance with his legal bills.)

An educated guess might be that LAPD’s taste in fine art, leans more towards skillfully rendered realism than the boldly conceptual, so may I suggest here that if you care to make a political statement with unsolicited art in the state of California, you make sure to showcase some kind of craft or drawing ability, thereby helping to create the aura that will prove, in court if needs be, that you are, indeed, an artist.

Unsolicited art may exhibit purely in silica. Consider the unsolicited KKK hat that somebody adorned Trump’s social-media Hollywood star with. Is there such a thing as “virtual vandalism?” Yes, there is. In what may be the first case of virtual or “augmented reality” vandalism, I imagine virtual-graffiti artist, Sebastian Errazuriz is raking in some virtual-something to the tune of some kind or real or bitcoin dollars down the road.

Police will never like it when the art world elite infringes on their art-critic territory. No matter what you or the elite think, LAPD doesn’t care for the street artist SMEAR’s work and they mean business.

Los Angeles’ SMEAR was named in the unique city injunction against the MTA in 2010, which aimed to prevent him from profiting off any artwork sold under the name SMEAR. “They’ve obtained an unfair advantage because they gained fame and notoriety through criminal acts,” said Anne Tremblay, assistant city attorney. “This is unlawful competition.”

Gallerist Fernando Luis Alvarez, whose mission is “to build artists’ careers from the doors in and to build community from the doors out” got people to the doors of his show “Opioid: Express Yourself” by installing a very-much-unwanted sculpture at the door of the local drug giant, Perdue Pharma this past June. Artist Domenic Esposito’s 800 lb heroin spoon, placed so as to block Perdue’s Connecticut headquarters’ entrance, got Alvarez arrested at the time of delivery. He was charged with “obstruction of free passage and interfering with police,” the sculpture was seized and Esposito had to wait for a late August court date to win the right to get it back.

NOTE: The OxyContin manufacturer has made billions for its Mortimer and Sackler family majority shareholders Perdue’s majority shareholders, while the opioid crisis rages out of control in the realm of the 99%.  It’s been singled out as a gateway drug for heroin use where an estimated 80% of people who use heroin first misuse prescription opiates, although Perdue Pharma has done its best to deny those charges.

The hand-forged steel sculpture is personal to Esposito, who watched his brother struggle with heroin addiction. He is quoted by hyperalergic.org saying: “I wanted the work to be massive, on the scale of the epidemic. And I wanted that Perdue sign in the background.”

Such situations are fine fodder for good news stories,

This artist’s favorite form of unsolicited art is the kind that is done for fun by the anonymous unknowns of the world, as unpopular as it is popular for it’s message alone. There’s nothing more delightful than when David slings a pebble of rock hard truth that hits a Goliath right between the eyes. It’s a movement.

It has been said that a populations’ sense of freedom correlates with its artistic expression. When a people feel oppressed, art will flourish as the only means of truthful expression available. The oppressed will like art that the oppressor does not, and visa versa. Any art can be turned into propaganda with the stroke of a sharpie, reverse propagandized and repurposed in great fun.

Such erratically valued art has in common is that it is does tend to be intentionally controversial in some form or other. Sylvester Stallone is perhaps the only completely sincere actor I’ve mentioned above, playing by the rules of art donation in his own mind. There is, of course, much bad art in place in unwelcome locations all over the world, donated by un-famous naives with a purity of intention not to be found in most commercially successful unwelcome art. Today’s average art dropper has a clear idea of the risk/reward economic relationship in which they are participating, and like casinos, they are in it for the long haul.

Packard JenningsShop Dropping has bought him New York Times features, a faculty position at the California College of the Arts and lawsuits as both plaintiff and defendant. I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

Give us this day, our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us

If you engage in this freewheeling style of art promotion, you may just make it to the big time. However, like Poster Boy your fabulous art resume may one day, read along the lines of:

Punishment: Three years probation, 210 days community service, 11 months prison, reduced or suspended.

Poster Boy was arrested by plain-clothes police at an art gallery in SoHo after his name appeared on the show flier. A short time later, The New York Times received an email saying Poster Boy wasn’t the man in question, but “a movement.”

At the initial hearing, Poster Boy maintained his innocence and refused a plea bargain. Later he pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal mischief as Poster Boy and got the felony conviction scratched in exchange for 210 hours of community service and three years of probation. Following a bunch of petty re-arrests and a missed court date, a few months later Poster Boy was sentenced to 11 months on Rikers. He was out again after two weeks.

You may end up as “one or more” rather famous artists who “nobody’s absolutely sure who they are.” That could give you a larger voice and some serious pocket change or perhaps, a stint in prison as well.


The Movement continues on. As of October 5th 2018 Sotheby’s witnessed a startling reminder of impermanence and the artist will to control the destiny of his own works.

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,”- Pablo Picasso, Banksy captioned his Instagram post.


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