Banksy throws London stencil party

banksy.jpgBy Raphael G. Satter | Graffiti impresario Banksy and airbrush-wielding guerrilla artists blanketed the walls of an abandoned London tunnel with offbeat murals as part of a three-day stencil-art street party this weekend.Banksy marshaled more than three dozen international artists for what he’s calling the “Cans Festival” – and is encouraging visitors to contribute their own graffiti starting Saturday.

“I’m hoping we can transform a dark forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art – in a dark forgotten filth pit,” Banksy was quoted as saying in the Times of London, which carried a preview of the exhibition Friday.

Festival spokeswoman Jo Brooks said work will be featured from 40 international artists and collectives, which sport names such as Bandit, Schhh, Pure Evil and Orticancvoodles.

Among Banksy’s pieces are security cameras growing from a tree, a hooded figure cutting itself with a knife and a worker spraying over ancient cave drawings. Other work includes an image of the pope pushing down his fluttering robes in an imitation of Marilyn Monroe by Norwegian artist Dolk.

Armed with aerosol cans and paint rollers, artists were still touching up the walls of the damp archway tunnel Friday.

Unlike many of Banksy’s previous stunts, the exhibition was approved by Eurostar, which manages the site under its old train platform at Waterloo Station.

It’s a sign of how far the artist – who has refused to give his real name – has come since he began his graffiti career in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of his work had a wickedly ironic and strongly anti-authoritarian bent. (His graffiti of two uniformed policemen locked in a passionate kiss is a longtime favorite.)

But although his identity has never been fully confirmed, critical success has made him something of an establishment figure. Banksy’s work commands hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are among his fans.

The event, which is free, will be held in the tunnel Saturday through Monday.