North Beach Loves Banksy

"If at first you don't succeed - call an airstrike." (Southeast corner of Columbus & Broadway).

You may have seen the Banksy piece donning a rooftop wall in North Beach at Columbus and Broadway, but if you haven’t, I suspect you’ll still have some time – it’s been there for about a year so far. The clout that Banky’s street art carries in San Francisco is notable. Normally, non-commissioned graffiti (also referred to as “vandalism”) is monitored by the city, and cleaned reasonably swiftly. But letting graffiti stand on a wall for over a year is clearly saying something.

Last year, a Banksy piece showed up on a wall in Chinatown. There was some controversy as to whether or not the piece was authentic (part of the point of creating it), but even the owners of the shop that got vandalized realized the possible artistic merit of the graffiti sprayed against their wall (another point of creating it). They made diligent efforts to keep neighbors from trying to remove the piece, and even hung a sign next to the Banksy stencil, “Please help us preserve this piece of art! It’s very hard to get and destroying it means the lost for everybody!”

And it’s more than just your civilian San Franciscans who are recognizing the likability of street art – the San Francisco Art Fund has recently commissioned Blek le Rat to do a stenciled art piece on the wall of Cafe Divis (Oak & Divisadero), and another one at Market and Gough. Blek le Rat is a vaunted, pioneering French street artist who even Banksy recognizes as the creator of the movement (and this respect might very well be reflected in Banksy’s ubiquitous rat-feature pieces, like this one which is currently on an Alcatraz wall, and hell, might even belong to Blek himself – who knows?). Blek le Rat began his work in 1981, and still today his work is making city officials everywhere wonder what constitutes vandalism, and what constitutes art.

Controversial or not, the work of Banksy and like-styled street artists has reached international esteem. And if something falls in your lap, like it has on North Beach’s Columbus & Broadway, you have to recognize it. Let it ride, North Beach. Let it ride.