Merriam-Webster defines “collaborate” as, “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” This definition implies that in order for a collaboration to take place, all parties must be alive. It therefore seems rather odd that Banksy describes his latest murals, which popped up on an unsuspecting wall in London over the weekend, as an “unofficial collaboration” with Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988. Rather odd indeed.
The murals depict beloved Basquiat pieces, bastardized by Banksy’s signature stencil art. One depicts two of Banksy’s cops patting down the central figure from Basquiat’s Boy and dog in a Johnnypump while the other features a Ferris wheel made of Basquiat’s signature crowns. We know they’re legit Banksy’s because Banksy (or the poor schlub tasked with running the artist’s social media) said so on Instagram. The murals are outside the Barbicon Centre, which opens a major Basquiat retrospective later this week. Basquiat is yet to comment.
Artists have been appropriating each other’s work for years, but to suggest that this is a “collaboration” is downright offensive. Basquiat is one of if not the most influential and beloved painters of our time. Arguably, Banksy’s work wouldn’t even be considered art had Basquiat not blurred the lines between street art and fine art. Banksy is, well, Banksy.