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Theodore Dalrymple
The Discriminating Philistine « Back to Story

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Oh dear! 'Guilt' actually
It's all there in the subheading. I have never understood why Banksy is allowed to get away with it. By their inaction the various authorities admit their built and prove themselves incapable of government.
"Her Majesty as Ziggy Stardust". That's not Ziggy Stardust, it's Aladdin Sane.
"...Banksy’s professed attitude screams, “Now! Now! Now! Me! Me! Me! Before me, nothing; after me, everything!”..."

Er... can anyone name any artist of whom this is NOT true?
bleck le rat is the authentic pioneer of this style of creation!!! Banksy is more of a wealthy con artist, profiting off a facade only he doesn't believe!!!
A pretentious and bloated review. "Lumpenintelligentsia?" Three times? many lumps in your green tea? You'll be needing it after I tell you Banksy is God: invisible, presceint, ubiquitous, mysterious and compassionate.
An enthralling dissertation on Banksy's art. However I will still enjoy his wit and humour as hypocrisy is an unalienable quality of humanity.

On that note you should, perhaps, consider your own egotistic simplicity when you intend to berate other for it. The ideas behind this piece and it's look at the "lumpenintelligentsia" are intriguing, powerful, and persuasive. Yet the value of the piece is sullied by your decision to use such verbose, elitist, and often eclectic language. You could have just as clearly presented your ideas without such classiest embellishment. As it is we are left with what many will see as an egotistical diatribe by a man who betrays his belief that education and culture elevate one above the common man and his simplistic ideals. It is a shame.
Please cite your source that Banksy owns private companies. Also his DOB and school affiliation.
I would have changed the Mozart as well. There's a time and a place.
Makes me want to go out find buildings that Banksy owns and deface them with graffiti and not with any kind of art, the kind of scribble you see on walls as you head into Waterloo Station. Bet anything you like he would turn fairly caustic.
David Burnfield July 01, 2013 at 8:19 PM
Marvellous essay, thank you Theodore, with some lovely sentences full of clarity and wit. I've sent it on to about six friends.
we are ruled by barbarians
in parliament and street
some come from ghettos
others are more discreet
thanks to dalrymple we now can see the light
the poor remain the mob and worse
the rich maintain the right
oh poor theodore, whatever can we do
while you write screeds that pay so well
we've nothing now left to rue
This article is excellent. Thank you for bringing mental clarity to this otherwise romanticized topic.
Vintage Dalrymple!
Some of the images in this collection are a corrective to the ones described by Dr Dalrymple. They aren't all juvenile protest at the usual targets. You might particularly like image 5.
I love that coinage "lumpen-intelligentsia." But I'm surprised to see from the comments that some of its membership read the City Journal. They tend to live up to the label and to prove TD's point.
I love graffiti when it has something intelligent to say...the voice of the people. Banksy's art is something else. It reminds me of people who "tag" walls with their names and very little else.
This article in my eyes is unreasonably pretentious, at seems like something an aristocrat would write to the aristocrat society, that looks down upon those who Banksy is expressing his beliefs against

This reminds me of the curious fact that a placebo pill has a placebo effect even if you tell the person taking it that it is only a placebo.

May I know where is this fact coming from? Although not entirely but mostly the placebo effect is the mind tricking the body.

A fish, say the Russians, rots from the head down; a culture, when its elite shows no discrimination, is debased.

So when the elite enjoys any other artfrom that deviates from the conventional Opera, Ballet and paintings of any artist younger than 1800s the culture is debased? Id say its called progress, the world changes so does art. Impressionism at its roots was believed to be an inferior to the conventional art, and with time people realised that Impressionism is indeed another form of art, that is appreciated my the modern society.

He has some graphic ability, and it is not his fault if his productions have been taken seriously as art. (A glance at a van Eyck and then at a Banksy should be sufficient to put his work into perspective.)

Absolutely ridiculous statement. Comparing artists that represent two completely different styles of art, and have live 600 years apart. No offence but this seems close minded to put it mildly. Would you say that taking a glance of van Eyck and Picasso should be sufficient to put his work into perspective. Would you label Picasso as someone who has some graphic ability, and that he is not at fault for the society thinking that his works are, indeed, great works of art?

Of course, Banksy, as a spoiled child of a consumer society in which real shortage is unthinkable, has all the unexamined anticapitalist prejudices of the lumpenintelligentsia to whom he appeals.

From what kind of magic source is this in-depth knowledge about Banksy coming from? Its amazing how much assumptions are made, bearing in mind that even his birthyear and country of origin is just speculations. For all we know, he might have been brought up in Eastern Europe (where people knew what real shortage was up until the dissolve of the USSR in the 1990). Saying that he has unexamined anticapitalst prejudices, while making an unexamined prejudice against the man in question, seems a little ironic.

Evidence of his conformism is that all his targets are easy.

Well what if what he is attacking the easy ones, because those are the easy ones. What I mean is - the issues he tackles whit his art, should not be easy to attack in a modern democratic society!

Banksy has almost single handedly redefined what art is to a lot of people who probably never felt they appreciated art before.
It is obvious that so foreshortened a sense of artistic history constitutes not an opening but a complete closure of the mind.

Ironically the last sentence expresses exactly how I feel about the author of this article.
Mrs. Featherbottom June 06, 2013 at 10:18 AM
At last we have someone reliable in charge of racial headcounts at art exhibitions.
4 "adolescent"s in there. You're slipping, sir :)

The tale of the people switching from Mozart to pop music - it's as though someone took the Mozart-in-the-prison-yard scene from the "Shawshank Redemption" and ...well done a Banksy with it.

I disagree with one of the "tyler"s about Gormley, whose iron men on Crosby beach are pretty wonderful.

Vandals have spray painted over ancient petroglyphs and painted boasts on famous rock formations. A lot of people just think they are special the rules dont apply to them and theyve got an inflated sense of self-worth about getting someplace remote.
Yes, rage, rage, against the dying of the something something blah blah I don't know I'm being paid by the click-thru

Dylan Thomas


what you are railing against is the phenomenon and i agree and i hope you keep your fist in the air and that your defiance doesn't go the way of my own oftentimes and evaporate like saltwater.

ty, may 13
; i really like the title and the anecdotes and will look into leys, thank you for spending and sharing your time and words. ordinarily i would through my indolence emit a hmmph to myself and move on, i apologize. it's an interesting argument but i'm not sure that banksy is the best entry point. surely there are other artists less deserving of whatever accolades the public has place on them (gormley comes to mind)
on art: art is a pursuit- if an artist throws out enough, potentially something of import may materialize. i remember an image of the famous photo of the agent orange victim mashed between ronald mcdonald and mickey mouse. masterpiece. it's understandable that much of banksy's later work would appear kitch by comparison.
on adolescence: many great minds have expounded on the value of its retention; einstein claimed to have gotten stuck in his adolescent questioning and i'm not sure that art coming from an adolescent attitude is less...good.
as an artist, i've deplored some of my visits to the various tates, and i'm glad that banksy may have put 'mind the crap' on the steps so i don't have to...i can say thanks and walk on.
which is what i must do now.
one more thing; i love the fact that i now know about invisible bees and if nothing else your essay may have just started a pilgrimage to your neighbors roof.

tyler fenn
More paint here than in a Banksy work.

Less content.
This is the kind of thinking that turns cities into New Jersey malls. You live in a CITY, remember?
Methinks Teddy D doth protest too much. Van Eyck, who did have real artistic chops, if alive, would likely grant that Banksy has the same gift. Banksy's real crime, it seems, is his "adolescent" dismissal of today's art temples as art tombs. Is Banksy really in the wrong here, or is T Dalyrmple simply a mouthpiece of an art world priesthood railing against the exposure of its wooden idols?
I think the author suffers from a condition common to academics: over-analysis with a bias towards his own ideology/worldview.

Sometimes a painting is just a painting.
After reading Mr. Dalrymple's piece, and after reviewing the Comments, I thought I'd take some time and look at Bansky's "art" online. It's obvious that Mr. Bansky possesses some amount of "artistic" talent. It's equally obvious from his Comment, however, that regardless of how much money he makes from practicing his art he fails to realize that there are many people in this world who have amassed significant fortunes without contributing in the least bit to the general welfare of mankind. Or, perhaps, Mr. Bansky is just another arrogant "artist". Either way, enjoy your neighbors in Herefordshire, Mr. Bansky. If they're anything like you, they, too, probably haven't earned their wealth.
Quite a perceptive article. But regarding my supposed 'envie de la boue' I can guarantee that within five years (or whenever the right property comes on the market) I shall be living in a nice manor house in Herefordshire surrounded by a thousand head of sheep (or possibly donkeys, I haven't decided), with old money for neighbours - people who have made a fortune promoting raves in the Nineties, say, or selling ringtones. And reading your critique of my work itself, I'm reminded of something my old friend Anish Kapoor said about his own work, paraphrasing Mark Twain: 'A work of art is a hole with a fool standing in front of it, and a liar patting him on the head.'
Who would ever have imagined that Dalrymple would find fault with Banksy? Well I suppose patronising bullshit is still a cut above Dalrymple's usual shallow, self serving denunciations of whatever displeases him.
I like it. You look down on banksy, in artistic terms, in a similar fashion as I, a molecular geneticist look down on artists.

My art is better than yours because I say so. Behold! the dawn of a new era where art is to become an exclusive club.. again.. Where art is not derived by popularity but rather a lack of.. Brilliant.
-- Mr. Brainwash June 02, 2013 at 4:22 PM

He's right. Black kids don't like art.
- - - - - - - - -

Gawd, that's inept. We are asked to read a piece that combines "elegant blank wall," redundant "lumpenintelligentsia," and the ever dull "cultural vandalism."

Contrary to this prick's central assertion, OWS and Friends have taken to throwing flowers. It's a local joke.

What the writer could learn is that capitalism is all about competition. Competition gets to be the most important thing, the only thing, the smelly unprosecuted society-killing thing. the thing that has corporations paying a 12% effective tax rate in America while whining and bribing and blackmailing their way to even less of a contribution.

And stealing everything that's not painted to the wall.

I don't know, Doctor: This may be the finest essay of yours I have ever read, and on an unexpected subject; to the gills, it is filled with exquisite finesse.

It may be difficult to find many readers who will do it justice, I daresay. Who did you say the best essayist was?
Never heard of Banksy til now.
as in "Wall and Piece", in the U K today, disaffected youth are not the only thing of which a "peaceful nature" is mendaciously put forward.
Jagdish Kadvekar June 03, 2013 at 7:29 AM
What is frustrating about Mr. Dalrymple, whom one otherwise admires, is this constant running down of super-markets and corporations. Tesco prospers because people - Englishmen and Englishwomen - want to buy their goods at Tesco.

It is frustrating that in writing about a minor and unimportant artist, Dalrymple brings in Tesco. Perhaps he should try running a supermarket chain.
I would really, really like to hear Banksy's reply.
What is this international uniform of ghetto youth? the same uniform of slunken or skinny jeans, hooded tops and sport shoes adopted by mostly young(ish) people including our Prince William and our very own posh PM David Cameron? I bet many of these presumably urbane middle class young people including the black people you mentioned are no doubt the same so called hipsters one sees everywhere.
Another blimpish attempt to make an impression on our American cousins with talk of sneakers (Trainers British English) Sidewalk (Pavement)
Alena Hromdkov,Prague June 03, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Perfect explanation of the disaster called post-modern artistic efforts.
The sad thing is that no one would dare to turn the station back to the Mozart. Not even if that's what all save one preferred. You just know that doing so would bring trouble and that that trouble would be deemed one's own fault.
Excellent. A comparable American art faker is Shepard Fairey, about whom I wrote a couple of years ago:
He's right. Black kids don't like art.
Well said...
Good essay. I liked it. I am posting this contentless message to ensure that everyone is aware of my approval. Later on, I plan to graffiti some banks to ensure that everyone is aware of my disapproval.
Louis B Knockel May 07, 2013 at 9:34 AM
Fine observations. Thanks again, doc.