'It might look like Banksy has torn the label off an old can of paint, written his name on it, and is trying to market it as a brand new product (just to prevent a paint company from getting there first) – but that is certainly not what’s happened, no. This is trademarked Banksy paint, an exciting new addition to the world of branded wall coverings.' – Gross Domestic Product.
With this piece Banksy presents a mocking take on the power of an artist’s name and the idea of the readymade. The work consists of a – seemingly used – tin of spray paint with its label missing, and the artist’s name written on it in white as a tag. The original product description on Gross Domestic Product states, in a typical tongue in cheek tone, that ‘It might look like Banksy has torn the label off an old can of paint, written his name on it, and is trying to market it as a brand new product (just to prevent a paint company from getting there first) – but that is certainly not what’s happened, no.’ Instead, apparently the can is attempting to pass itself off as official ‘trademarked Banksy paint, an exciting new addition to the world of branded wall coverings.’
By joking about ‘trademarking’ black spray paint Banksy is also perhaps making a dig at Anish Kapoor who made headlines a few years ago for drawing up a contract ensuring that only he could use the newly discovered ‘Vantablack’, causing outrage among fellow artists who accused him of monopolising the material. At the same time Banksy appears to be referencing the long history of the readymade in the Western canon of art, applying Marcel Duchamp’s logic that art is whatever the artist says it is. By putting his name on a can of old paint, he has elevated an everyday object to the realm of sculpture, and while it may remain useable it now has to be appreciated and treated as an art object rather than just an object. This isn’t the first time Banksy has drawn attention to the implicit absurdity of what is deemed an artwork by the market; in 2007 he made a print called Morons showing an auctioneer selling a painting in a gilt frame with the words ‘I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.’ written on the canvas.
This concept of the readymade is in keeping with many of the other products found in the Gross Domestic Product shop including the Banksy clutch bag and the Banksy clock which were also immediately snapped up by Banksy’s many fans and collectors when they were launched in October 2019. Rather than operating as a normal shop however, GDP was designed as a lottery system where you had to ‘apply’ to buy the products. The website stated that this ‘may prove to be a disappointing retail experience – especially if you’re successful in making a purchase’.
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