11 Oct 2010

Banksy does Bart

Banksy has done the opening couch sequence to the new episode of The Simpsons. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, one of the few journalists to have met Banksy in the flesh asks : is it Bart?

Banksy divides people : he’s either a genius or a charlatan. Having met him (see below) and followed him for years I’m nearer to the fan camp, and fellow travellers will be delighted to hear that after his recent movie Exit through the Gift Shop Banksy seems to be embracing more work with moving image, albeit small screen.

The graffiti artist has collaborated on the new episode of The Simpsons which aired in America on sunday (10th October) night and will show in Britain on Sky 1 on October 21st.

Banksy has storyboarded the opening sequence, and it is a typically biting but self-mocking go at the Simpsons industry. Critics will wonder how Banksy has the gall to have a go at the Simpsons for commercialisation, and Banksy fans might be a bit queasy about him doing anything for a Rupert Murdoch owned TV show – but I guess it works for all sides in a slightly uncomfortable fort of way.

The episode is called MoneyBart, although it isn’t clear whether the date of broadcast in Britain has anything to do with it being the day after the Comprehensive Spending Review when we will hear the Coalition’s cuts. Banksy enjoys poking fun at the prevailing politics, whatever it is, but this may just be a coincidence.

Banksy’s spokesperson explains the producers originally asked him to write one of the couch gags that open each episode, but it appears it has gone a bit further than that.

It is one of those life imitating art imitating life (or is it the other way around?) moments. When Banksy went to New Orleans just before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina he famously painted a Homage to Bart graffiti wall.

It is also confirmed that Banksy has done two new pieces of street art in London. A trawl through Twitter suggests one of them is a homage to the late American street/pop artist Keith Haring in Bermondsey but I have’t seen news of the other yet so if you’re in the capital keep your eyes peeled….!

I am one of the very few journalists to have met Banksy in the flesh. A mutual friend who works with him introduced us in October 2005 when he was putting the finishing touches to his Crude Oils exhibition in West London. So I ought really to be in a position to tell whether the Daily Mail‘s supposed expose of his true identity in 2008 was accurate. I saw and spoke to him, shook his hand even. But I now know how those poor people asked to identify criminals in police lineups must feel, for when I think back five years I really struggle to picture his face. He kept his head down when we met, mostly because he was crouching on the floor doing some work. It was late at night, I’d had dinner and I admit a couple of drinks. And I was as excited to meet another of the people in the room who was helping him, whose work I had actually bought in the past without any idea he helps Banksy out from time to time (but I was sworn to secrecy before being allowed in the room so I can’t identify him I’m afraid). And so the embarrassing truth is that it is now all a bit of a blur, and I’m just not sure whether Banksy was the man in the article or not. But I quite like it like that.