Art Show Showdown: Banksy vs. Elizabeth Peyton


Unless THOMAS KINKADE is involved, it’s pretty senseless to say that one person’s art is better than someone else’s. But we’re not here to make sense — we’re just giving you something to do before you run off and refresh your inbox again.

With that urgency in mind, we’re pitting two of New York City’s hottest exhibitions dead against each other: Wearing the red satin trunks is LIVE FOREVER: ELIZABETH PEYTON, a retrospective of the American artist’s career now playing at the NEW MUSEUM. In the blue unitard, it’s THE VILLAGE PETSTORE AND CHARCOAL GRILL, a store-occupying installation in the West Village created by Banksy, the UK’s beloved guerrilla stencilist.

The media involved in this matchup could not be more disparate. Peyton primarily makes portraits: lighter-than-air paintings of people such as KURT COBAIN, JARVIS COCKER, and some dudes she dated.

Banksy offers a pet store from a disturbing parallel dimension, with animatronic chicken nuggets, a monkey watching primate porn, and sausages writhing in aquarium tanks. Heavy ideas parade through both exhibits, but those seeking aesthetic exegesis should look elsewhere (and also go easy on the SAT vocab). This steel-cage tussle pertains to the shows’ less-often-examined aspects, ones that even Kinkade fans can appreciate.

Check out our scorecard after the jump.

Better Exhibition Title: The New Museum ostensibly is telling Elizabeth Peyton to live forever, which is not a bad idea, albeit impossible. The title also quotes OASIS’s one good song, so props for that as well. Apparently Banksy tried to pull off a similar coup by riffing on that famous KINKS album, but he lost his way after the first word. Winner: Elizabeth Peyton

Better Artist Name: Banksy employs the classic and nearly unfuckwithable one-word technique, whereas “Elizabeth Peyton” sounds like a label your aunt would wear on vacation to Nantucket. Note to Elizabeth Peyton: is still available. Winner: Banksy

Better Take-away Materials: This is a tricky one. Banksy’s show has authentic-looking business cards. They fit in your wallet and are perfect for Halloween when you run out of pennies. The front of the Live Forever pamphlet is adorned by Peyton’s portrait of FRIDA KAHLO, which could be confusing if you leave it on your coffee table. I mean, are you into Elizabeth Peyton or Frida Kahlo? Which one is it? Winner: Banksy

Better Crowd: We saw Live Forever on the third Thursday evening of the month, aka the New Museum’s FREE NIGHT, so we suspect that most of the other visitors were poor, like we are. Six out of seven people at the Banksy show were British, meaning they uttered the word “Brilliant” repeatedly before rushing outside to smoke ten cigarettes. Winner: Elizabeth Peyton

Better Secret Theme: We suspect that The Village Green Petstore and Charcoal Grill has a pro-animal, possibly vegetarian agenda, which, while cannily presented, doesn’t change our mind about the deliciousness of venison. Meanwhile, Live Forever proves that Elizabeth Peyton loves painting hair. Her sitters’ heads are mere platforms on which perfectly shaped brown waves crest and break. We wanted to surf them all night long. Winner: Elizabeth Peyton

Overall Winner: Thomas Kinkade. Sure, Banksy and Elizabeth Peyton are good at what they do, but neither can adequately capture the thunder of NASCAR like the one true Painter of Light.

– Chris Diken