Banksy, the anonymous British street artist who injects his murals with humor, controversy and often brilliant commentary, has struck again with what might be his most divisive work yet. The agitator who sold his work for $60 a pop at a Central Park stand two days ago (his pieces have sold for up to $1.8 million in the past) is in the midst of what he’s calling a “month-long residency” in New York City, and in that time he’s left his imprint in four of five boroughs (don’t forget the Bronx, Banksy) with work that manages to be thoughtful and hilarious, sometimes all at once.
Now, though, he’s taken his unique sensibility and applied it to the 2001 tragedy at the center of New York’s identity. The 9/11 mural is stenciled on a lower wall in Tribeca (a Manhattan neighborhood), and shows a silhouette of the two buildings. There’s a crack in the wall running down the middle of the tower on the right, where an orange-yellow chrysanthemum grows (or was placed) at a height that approximates where the first plane hit:
Some outlets are already calling it a tribute—that seems to be the consensus—while others are pointing out that the flower looks like an explosion, and wondering whether it’s disturbing. The truth is, it can be read both ways. It’s a symbol of rebirth; the brightness of the flower against the cement wall, and the black buildings, could represent life springing anew in the ashes of a tragedy. Those subscribing to that interpretation have even called it cliche.
But the second reading is that it’s actually depicting the disaster—the first half, anyway—and that opens up to the discussion to other interpretations. The point is that with Banksy, nothing is as simple as it first appears, and those who merely see it as a banal tribute have been fooled.
It’s a stark, interesting and beautiful work of art that speaks to the complexities of the city’s darkest moment with two simple images. You get the sense that the conversation is just beginning, and Banksy’s presence in New York continues to provoke.
Check out the gallery below for all of the work from Banksy’s New York residency.