When the 555 gallery boosted Banksy from his Packard Plant hideaway last February, outrage ensued -- and the frenzy went national. In fact, LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne is
thinking about Banksy. He relates the tale to the looting of objects from the Le Corbusier-designed model city of Chandigahr in India, which have been sold off in auction houses around the world, to question whether art loses its context when wrenched from where it was intended. Does the Banksy painting, in which a little boy is pictured next to the words, "I remember when all this was trees," carry the same meaning inside gallery walls, rather than an abandoned plant fit for razing?
A broader and frankly more compelling issue is how these two stories
turn inside out the relationship between patrimony and exploitation, and
between local heritage and colonial privilege. It is one thing when
occupying British forces forcibly remove an artwork from its setting, as
they did two centuries ago with the pieces of Greek temple architecture
and sculpture known collectively as the Elgin Marbles, and ship it out
of the country. It is something else entirely when the pieces at risk
were created by outsiders, and locals are the ones rushing to loot as
well as protect them.
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