Famous 'tagger' Banksy strikes in Utah
A world-famous, but anonymous, graffiti artist struck this week in Utah -- in advance of his movie's arrival at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Works signed by -- or in the style of -- the artist Banksy have popped up in Park City and Salt Lake City, with photos of them being posted all over the Internet.
The artwork heralds the premiere of a documentary about the notorious British street artist, called "Exit Through the Gift Shop," at the Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance officials spilled the secret early Thursday morning, confirming that Banksy's movie would premiere in the "Spotlight Surprise" slot Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at the Library Center in Park City.
Lucia Bisbee, manager of the Java Cow coffee shop on Park City's Main Street, saw one Banksy work -- a stencil of a cameraman photographing a flower that he has plucked by its roots -- on the wall of her business when she opened Tuesday morning.
"We've had many visitors, taking many pictures, and being just wowed by the fact that there's something like that in Park City," Bisbee said Wednesday.
Other buildings that have been tagged, she said, are the Mercantile Building on Main and the historic Osguthorpe Barn along Highway 224 -- which is owned by Park City. Park City officials said the barn was given a new coat of paint. One billboard on Salt Lake City's State Street also has been defaced with the Banksy name.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, Park City's economic development manager, said removing the work from public property may cost a few hundred dollars.
"Our official position is that anything that's put up on public property we'll have removed within 72 hours," he said. "Obviously we've heard some rumors that it might be a well-known graffiti artist. But we're unlikely to substantiate that."
Weidenhamer said while there is a criminal investigation into the graffiti, there are no plans to hunt down the artist during his movie's premiere.
Adam Price, executive director of the Salt Lake Art Center, said Banksy -- whoever he is -- is no mere vandal.
"Banksy's work speaks to people at a very fundamental level," Price said. "They find his work exciting and thought-provoking. There is a lot of conceptual depth to what he's trying to accomplish."
Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper, in a statement, called Banksy's movie "one of those films that comes along once in a great while, a warped hybrid of reality and self-induced fiction while at the same time a totally entertaining experience. ... The story is so bizarre I began to question if it could even be real ... but in the end I didn't care."
What remains a mystery is whether Banksy will unmask himself in the film or at Sunday's premiere.
"I feel bad I won't be able to shake the filmmaker's hand and tell him how much I love this film," Cooper said. "I think I will shake everyone's hand that day and hope I hit on Banksy somewhere."
Bisbee said the Banksy work at Java Cow will stay on the wall at least through Jan. 31, the last day of Sundance.
"People have said, 'Please don't take it down. We have people coming in from London who want to see it,' " she said.