The Vandalism Vandal

Posted on May 30, 2007 

The Vandalism Vandal

Who’s been splashing the city’s most prized graffiti? The hunt for the radical, young—and possibly lovelorn—conceptual-Marxist street-art supervillain.

Here at the beginning, then, why don’t we just lay out the mystery, the so-called facts, as plain as we can make them. In the fall, some anonymous figure started vandalizing the city’s most celebrated vandalism—by which I mean not traditional seventies-style spray-paint graffiti but a relatively new, gentrified outgrowth of that tradition that’s come to be called “street art”: multimedia works of astonishing polish and complexity and beauty, often created by artists without a “street” bone in their bodies. Many went to art school and have grown-up jobs and lucrative gallery careers and are terrified of the cops and traditional graffiti crews. Over the past ten years, as street art has become big business—upscale art shows in London and Tokyo, advertising contracts, waves of positive media coverage, blogfuls of groupies—it’s generated exactly the kind of internal backlash you’d expect in a subculture conceived of as guerrilla warfare against consumer culture.

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