Anonymous artist Banksy is known for high-octane stunts that consistently succeed at landing him in the national news, but his talents at rigorous self-promotion aren’t restricted to the hallowed halls of Sotheby’s auctions. Early in December of last year, an artist based in Ohio who goes by the pseudonym Frizk claims to have received a direct message on Instagram from Banksy’s verified account. In the messages, Banksy allegedly requested that Frizk hang a Banksy original painting of a peeled banana in the Contemporary Arts Center amidst a temporary exhibition on view through February 10 called Mamma Andersson: Memory Banks.
Frizk, evidently flattered to have been given a homework assignment by one of the world’s most prolific art trolls, employed the assistance of two students from the University of Cincinnati, who distracted the museum’s security guards while he affixed the painting to the wall (how Banksy managed to get the painting to Frizk in the first place is unclear).
The methodology for this project was, as is typical for Banksy, painfully sophomoric (if it was indeed a genuine Banksy outing). “Because of the way the modern art industry is run right now, only a very small percent of people get to choose what art is good and all other art gets rejected, even if it is just as good,” Frizk told CityBeat.
Right, so the solution to this supposedly systemic issue was to detract attention away from the work of a lesser-known Nordic female artist, whose exhibition you pranked for essentially no reason? “The banana had no meaning at all, but when people came up and brought meaning to the piece, it proved that the modern art industry is a scam,” Frizk said. Wow, Magritte must be quaking in his grave.
Unfortunately for the alleged mastermind Banksy, who told Frizk via DM that he’d “rather have the art museum just hang it up than have them give it back,” his painting was removed from the wall just minutes after it went on display.
Joshua Mattie, the communications director for the Center of Contemporary Art, told CityBeat that the painting itself featured more evidence of Banksy’s mission to implicate fellow artists, museum employees and yes, journalists, in the joke. “Visitors who claimed to be ‘vlogging’ about their visit to the museum asked the guard on duty for a tour of the exhibition and [the painting] was discovered as they returned to the opposite end of the gallery,” Mattie said. “Since the alleged artist has not yet come to claim their painting, we can’t speak to their identity. The painting contains the initials ‘JK’.”