By Lea Lion
Housed in the mini-mall at Sunset Boulevard and Laveta Terrace, the Royal Liquor Jr Market does not exactly exude art world savvy. Sure, the convenience store’s façade is covered in graffiti (including a couple of tags by high-profile street artists) but, it’s still more a spot to score a six pack than a silkscreen – that is, until recently. A few weeks ago, some t-shirts appeared alongside the sun-bleached products on display in the store’s front window. Dangling crookedly from hangars, the t-shirts depict two gun-toting soldiers in fatigues surreptitiously painting a bright red peace sign on a wall. Beneath the image, block letters spell out the famed British street artist’s tag: Banksy, whose work is part of MOCA’s graffitti blowout, “Art in the Streets.” In the art world, big shows can lead to big bucks as Banksy’s documentary “Exit through the Gift Shop” pointed out. Now, it seems even the corner store is getting in on the game.
The “Banksy” t-shirts come in black and white and a range of sizes. On the inside of the shirt, a silkscreen reads the street artist’s name again along with “Made in USA” and washing instructions. At $14.99 a pop, they seem like a souvenir for Echo Park tourists.
Regardless, all things “Banksy” are shrouded in mystery. From behind a wall of bullet-proof glass, a store employee said that the shirts came from “a man who came in one time”. When asked if the shirts were selling, he said no, then changed his mind, and said that people come in to buy two or three at a time. Then he said he was too busy to answer questions.
The employee’s reluctance to discuss the shirts may have been for good reason. Banksy’s official website reads, “You’re welcome to download whatever you wish from this site for personal use. However, making your own art or merchandise and passing it off as ‘official’ or authentic Banksy artwork is bad and very wrong.”
For now, just file this one under: Exit through the liquor store.