The London authorities have become vandals in their own right, potentially destroying some very beautiful art. In light of the Olympic Games, they are on a mission to clean up the city. This includes washing over all street art and graffiti. London street art is a space that has arguably become one of the art world's most exciting arenas. One of the king’s of that arena is the mysterious (and uber-successful) Banksy. Not only does he boast a history of sold out shows and a cultish global following, but he’s also the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. It’s a known fact that his “artworks” sell out in minutes for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some of his London specific pieces are a tourist attraction (and therefore an industry) in their own right. That is, if the tourists make it to London in time to see them.
It's hard to imagine that the British authorities are actually going to be so ignorant and obtuse as to wash over this valuable content. Banksy's works embody the current cultural and societal climate on a level that few other modern artists can match. He doesn’t simply vandalize walls to spread his graffiti underworld ego -- he creates beautiful, witty, conversation-stirring pieces. For example his latest works (made especially for the Olympics) portray a child laborer sewing up little British flags; a javelin-thrower holding a bomb, and a pole-vaulter strategically launching along the face of a high wall. Not your usual spray-paint squiggle.
Of course in defending Banksy it seems unfair to wash over all the other street art and graffiti that adorns the streets of London. Which begs the question -- if Banksy himself was once a lowly “nobody” street artist, then who is to know what other emerging talent is out there? Are they erasing the urban version of Picasso, Rothko, or Warhol?
As someone who has been to London many times, I’d safely call London a “clean” city. The last thing they need to worry about in light of the games, is covering up street art, and on top of that the image they are painting of London is a very dull one indeed.