Another pop up exhibit from Banksy has been showing in Croydon. Called ‘Gross Domestic Product’ it is essentially a window display. Yet this is a rare exhibition where the products on show will soon be on sale.
Created for the reason of utilising his brand rights it is, as Banksy describes, “our first and only store”. The doors however will never open. The plan is for all sales to be made online after the display closes.
Banksy Legal Action
Posted on a notice within the display, Banksy explains the reasoning behind his showroom in a bit more detail. “This shop has come about as a result of legal action” he says. “A greeting cards company are trying to seize legal custody of the name Banksy from the artist, who has been advised the best way to prevent this is to sell his own brand of merchandise.”
Foremost amongst the exhibits on show is the famous flak jacket worn by Stormzy at Glastonbury. Competing for space behind the glass it is shown alongside a riot helmet reshaped as a mirror ball and a tombstone which you can only collect from the quarry. Elsewhere in the display you can find “a bit of old carpet painted to resemble the diabetes riddled corpse of Tony the Tiger” and some toy refugees placing a baby into a truck.
Banksy Art in Croydon
There are also some recognisable works previously only seen on the street or on previous outings. His French refugee girl which first appeared in Paris covering up swastikas now reappears in a makeshift window with corrugated iron curtains. In another window his clocks with scurrying rats first made a stir in New York. The fireplace meanwhile and his flying ducks which are actually drones are from his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
The company believed to be at the heart of Banksy’s legal action is a greeting cards outfit called ‘Full Colour Black‘. They in turn have issued an angry statement denouncing the artists claims. “Don’t be fooled folks. See through the slick PR” they state in their opening line. Adding later on “We are not corporate… we sell greetings cards from our home. It is ENTIRELY untrue that we are attempting to “take custody” of his name”. This line has been invented by his Corporate Lawyers to try and gain sympathy from you. He’s made this up!!! “
At the heart of this pop up showcase therefore is an attempt to retain creative rights to his creative output. Full Colour Black say that they “legally photograph public graffiti and make it available to you – the public.” This sits at the heart of public art and how available it is for others to use given that it is indeed in the public realm. Despite this there is no getting away from the fact that the images they use in a number of products can trace their genesis back to Banksy’s original creation whether photographed legally or not.
We’re with Banksy on this one. It shouldn’t matter whether the business is large or small there is a key principle at stake here. No matter what you think about the artist, he created the work and should be able to defend his copyright. No doubt other artists will be watching closely.
Gross Domestic Product, the pop up showroom in Croydon ran from 1 October 2019 to 13 October 2019. All photographs used in this post were taken on 8 October 2019.To read about another recent copyright controversy have a look here.