In 2013, the streets of New York received a valuable gift from the legendary street artist Banksy. During an entire month, new art pieces appeared on the walls of random buildings. On October 21, the South Bronx got its second Banksy mural known as Ghetto 4 Life. The piece sparked controversy for many reasons but still survived to this day. It recently became known that the mural is going to be removed and relocated to a gallery.
Banksy Mural in the Bronx: An Interesting Case of Art Preservation
Better Out Than In was the name of the month-long open-air exhibition organized by Banksy in New York City. The event was documented by the artist on his website and Instagram account. Most works exhibited the signature Banksy stencil style and contained political messages.
The Banksy mural depicting a small boy in a cap, painting the words “Ghetto 4 Life” on a wall, with a butler serving him spray paint cans on a tray, solicited mixed reactions from both art critics and residents. Since the piece appeared in the South Bronx, many questioned the acceptability of someone like Banksy using the word “ghetto” in his art. Some said that the artwork was meant to be perceived ironically, and others felt like it was reinforcing harmful stereotypes about the area. Locals pointed out that the influx of visitors to the South Bronx after the mural’s appearance was unlike anything they had ever seen before with any other street artist.
The treatment of the Banksy mural became another point of discussion. While works by other street artists from the Bronx were treated as acts of vandalism, Banksy’s wall became a pilgrimage destination. The owner of the building that became the canvas for Banksy’s controversial piece said that he loved it and proceeded to cover it in plexiglass, not unlike something used in museums or galleries to protect paintings. He even constructed a gate around the mural. In 2023, the owner announced that he would be demolishing the building and relocating the Banksy mural. He is said to be currently figuring out the logistics of how to do that.
While Banksy has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the world of art globally, New York will remember his impact forever despite most of the artist’s works being removed. Ghetto 4 Life was one of the very few public artworks by Banksy that survived in New York — others were either painted over or sold at auctions.