Fans of Banksy Graffiti are in a strange position. If you do not live in London or any of the various International Cities where he paints his works, you're not likely to see them. Even if you do happen to live in the City, you have to be quick or by the time you reach a new piece of Banksy Art it is more often than not covered in Plexiglas or has been chipped away and flogged on eBay.
Whilst it's understandable, if not mercenary, for people to be removing Banksy Art, I take more exception with those who chase their fifteenth seconds of fame by defacing his stencils. A recent example of this was a piece of Banksy Graffiti that the painted in New Orleans to commemorate the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (and possibly a timely reminder of the lack of response from the Government just before the national election!). One of the stencils was of a boy swinging on a lifesaver and this has now been blotted out with red paint. You could possibly understand a kid doing this, but given the placement and height of the Graffiti, it would seem to be someone more 'mature'. I suppose by defacing a piece of art, they know it will be reported and ergo they have their little piece of infamy. The same thing happened in London earlier this year when two of the more prominent pieces were destroyed within days; part roller-painted out, with the words "All the best" painted over them. There is speculation by Banksy Posters on forums that this was actually done by the Artist himself, in answer to the wholesale removal of his public works that were placed on eBay at extortionate prices.
There was a time, when Banksy worked in Bristol and London were left up and you could go and view them on the walls and in the Street, the very places where they were intended to be seen. Now it sees that with the press attention and the dislike in some quarters of the artist due to his perceived commercialization, new works are fleeting, temporary things. Graffiti by its very nature is of course temporary, but this is not just tags and scrawls, Banksy's work is Art. He comments on society and issues. His work, more often then not, is brilliantly located and executed and is a stark commentary on our age and contrasts the relentless advertising which bombards us as soon as we leave our homes.
Others Modern artists are lauded in galleries and whilst there have been a few exhibitions of Banksy's work, they are from private collections, art that the public no longer has access to, pieces that were removed or taken from the streets, Banksy's gallery of choice. Whilst I can see this as the nature of street art, a part of me mourns the fact that soon the only records left will be Banksy Posters and Prints.