'Guerrilla' artist challenges capitalism

Banksy, the British graffiti artist and prankster, opened his first Los Angeles show in an obscure warehouse, bringing his subversive humour and anti-capitalist message to a city better known for wealth and self-obsession.

    Banksy caused controversy by painting the West Bank barrier

    "Barely Legal," a free three-day event billed as a "vandalised warehouse extravaganza," opened with the excitement and puzzlement that has come to be the hallmark of the elusive "guerrilla artist."

    Banksy keeps his identity secret but has built up a cult following in Europe over the last four years, placing his work in top museums, zoos or on the streets.

    Manny Skiles, 30, a Los Angeles graphic designer who has spent two years following Banksy's work mostly through the Internet, said: "It is really amazing. I think he is hilarious."

    Skiles and dozens of others spent more than an hour lining up to buy $500 limited print editions of Banksy's work. The originals sell for up to 25,000 pounds sterling.

    Pink elephant

    On one wall, a stencil art picture shows bush hunters in loincloths raising their spears at empty supermarket shopping carts.

    On another, a masked street anarchist with a thrown back arm prepares to hurl - a bunch of flowers.

    But the placid pink elephant takes pride of place. Tai, 38, looms large in a room decked out with a sofa, a television, rugs on the floor and a man and woman sitting reading obliviously on the couch. It is titled "Home Sweet Home."

    Kari Johnson, Tai's caretaker, said: "We are sitting on the couch not seeing her. From what I understand, the elephant is a symbol of all the world's problems being ignored.”

    "There is nothing in the world I would ever do to harm an elephant. The paint is nontoxic and washable and does not hurt a bit," Johnson told Reuters.

    Guantanamo prank

    Banksy, as is his custom, was not around to discuss his show, which followed a prank at Disneyland this month in which he placed a blow-up figure dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay prison overalls beside a roller-coaster ride.

    Last month, Banksy placed remixed copies of Paris Hilton's debut CD in stores across England. He gave them titles such as "Why Am I Famous?" and "What Am I For?"

    In the "Barely Legal" show, the fake Hilton CDs are displayed in a plexiglass case alongside photo-shopped pictures of the hotel heiress and live cockroaches.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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