wed 28/09/2022

Graffiti Wars, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Graffiti Wars, Channel 4

Graffiti Wars, Channel 4

It's spray-paints at dawn as Banksy battles Robbo

Banksy painted over Robbo's work. Spray-paints at dawn!

Before Banksy's work became the object of desire for champagne-sipping, canapé-snaffling hedge fund managers at auction houses' private views, there was something of the curled lip about street art. Indeed, for years it wasn't known as street art but graffiti - the painted defacement of walls. London in the Noughties saw the evolution of that view: there could be a legitimate artistic value of this sort of work. However, not all graffiti qualified - much was still mindless vandalism.

That is what Graffiti Wars on Channel 4 last night tackled: the battle between art and spray-painting, between intellectual execution and basic daubing.

Banksy was the king of the Noughties street art scene. His work was protected under perspex by local councils, gathered around by gaggles of tourists snapping away at the chambermaid lifting a wall to sweep dust underneath. He made amusing, allusive, subversive work which pleased the art crowd and the public alike. He was asked to do museum shows and monographs are written about him.

Robbo, by contrast, was the supreme Eighties tagger, who gained respect for his command of logistics: he knew how to gain unseen access to write his name on tubes and trains, winning a crosstown audience for his work, which, while prolific, has about as much artistic intent as a dog pissing on a lamp post. The voiceover suggested it was an expression of anger at society or the government, but I would hardly even credit it with that much integrity.

The incident that sparked this programme goes as follows: in the late Nineties, a young Banksy met Robbo at a pub and said he had no idea who he was; Robbo slapped him and said he'd never forget. Banksy denies this ever happened, but after Robbo published it in a book, Banksy painted over Robbo's last extant tag (pictured above). Incorporating another graffiti artist's work into your own without permission is an unspeakable sin in that world.

This caused a tit-for-tat campaign where Robbo would in revenge deface a work of Banksy's and Banksy - or one of his partisans - would counterpaint. Robbo's efforts were ugly, simple, unartistic, whereas Banksy's were elegant, witty ripostes. It was like watching Garry Kasparov and a five-year-old play chess.

Graffiti Wars entailed a history of street art, too. Robbo scorned Banksy as a thief because he borrowed techniques (stencils) and motifs (rats, for example), from the original street artist, Blek le Rat, who in Paris made street art a respectable branch of the visual arts, one taking in social and political commentary rather than just sticking two fingers up to the authorities. Of course, in the art world Banksy is doing exactly what all artists should do, which is learn from their predecessors, moving on from their work with their own inspiration and application. But Robbo couldn't see this - all he saw was laziness.

The entire programme was a battle between art and not-art, and was in its way a category error: you can hardly compare Banksy's apples and Robbo's sour grapes. Robbo hoped to be legitimised by a gallery show, but his work was awful, just his tag over splotches of paint. The programme-makers had to build Robbo up as their subject, but Banksy seemed to care little about the competition (although the tit-for-tat implies an irritation, if it is Banksy doing it). Does Steve Jobs worry when some inventor develops a new CD walkman in their garage?

The graffiti wars, such as they were, ended when Robbo fell and hit his head so hard he was put into a coma, which he has not yet come out of. Robbo, who had waged such a raging, misguided campaign out of pride, paints no more.


I think Robbo and Banksy may be from the same crew. If you think about it, having a public diss between Robbo and Banksy makes everybody talk, everybody take a side and the only two who take advantage by media notoriety is both of them. Sounds not so absurd to me that this is a smoke screen and a prank between mates. banksy knowing full well how to promote another artist through controversy.. if he really hated Robbo surely he wouldn't have knowingly given him exposure like this? he's basically giving him an art 'career'... Could be wrong but the potential for a set up is totally there. eople just believe whatever they see on tv without questioning it and banksy know this. be interesting to see how it pans out. i could be wrong but the more i think about it the more sure i am. discuss.

I think Josh is a biased ignorant fool, both are brilliant artists, the free hand portrait robbo did of the actress was amazing and to compare his work to " a five yr old" shows why your comments should be taken as the outpourings of a narrow minded fool.nohing more. And the person who said "people believe everything on tv" well some conspiracy theorist morons also question every little thing that's on tv!!!! " theyre telling me it's vegetable spread but I know it's a lie!!! It's on tv!!!! Knobs

All I can say is that this article is biased. It's a shame that when the facts are laid out in front of everyone, the denial still exists. Robbo will paint again and if anything, this "fall" that is claimed to have happened has boosted Robbo's recognition beyond Banksy's expectations.

I agree with Josh. Robbo just seemed thick and kept banging on about stenciling not being skilful. That was rubbish and Banksy's art is clearly clever. The thing I really prefer about Banksy over Robbo though is the intelligence and politicisation of his work which nearly always seems to have a pertinent message whereas Robbo just seems like a self-obsessed self publicist. I am not an artist or one of "the faithful", just someone who watched this programme and formed an opinion. The Banksly bashers are just typical of the build them up and knock them down school of haters. I suppose they think it is time to take Banksy down a peg or two. Robbo came across as a bitter, stupid, unfit dauber, whereas Banksy is head and shoulders above him. Robbo's fans had a lot of faux indignation and seemed to get worked up about nothing. And I suppose if Robbo printed lies about Banksy, he had a right to deface his splashes of paint.

I loved Banksy’s Guantanamo Bay piece in Disneyland. I bet Robbo hasn’t even heard of Guantanamo Bay never mind cares about it.

you know nothing of art. stenciling is an art yes, but freehand painting is a much harder and more beautiful art form. its like comparing Picasso to a photographer, both art, but can't really be compared, hours of labor or push a button. Also banksy copied a lot more than rats and half of its just blown up photos. he didn't even draw half the shit. Has other people do his art.... Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I'd rather see graffiti than a Rembrandt, or Monet. but thats just me. Its just art. get over it.... Graffiti has and will always be.

josh sepro - you my boy are a muppet! You clearly know nothing of Graffiti and therfore your comments on this documentary are laughable.

The hole meaning of art is doing it pre hand.. Could u say, traceing a picture and puting it up on a wall make it art ... No.. Banksy is just a fool which thinks hes doing art. Legends like king robbo, do it all out of scrap, .. So use your facts, graffiti street artist is robbo. I can bet banksy would sht himself if he tried to draw by hand and without stencils.. P.s. Banksy has no balls

Agreed. Problem is.. Banksy has loads of PR behind him.. And money.. Wait until King Robbo regains his health again. Watch what happens when his art work begins to out sell Banksys work. So until then.. My eyes are for original artist. And not copy cats.

I respect Robbo - but i am sorry to tell you - Robbo's work will NEVER "outsell Banksy's work". Truth.

art is not sbout doing stuff free hand! art is about ideas! some art is not even done by hand. heard of performance art? found art? i really like robbo, not big on tagging, but he showed his skills in that C4 doc with that fantastic work on the side of the building. the stuff banksy did on the walls of the west bank were incredible! great idea, huge impact. you can not deny that.

Interesting: Banksy (allegedly) challenges Channel 4 over this programme because he thinks it implies he put Robbo into his coma I originally wrote that Robbo had been attacked, but was corrected by the programme-maker who said he had fallen. What next?

this write up is bollocks. someone has a real boner for the idiot known as banksy, who is shit and far from original..with his gay stencils. Learn to graf you muppet



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