Artist Banksy calls One World Trade Center a “betrayal”
By Haley Draznin, (CNN) — In a controversial essay published on his website Sunday, popular British graffiti artist Banksy criticized the design of One World Trade Center, referring to the building as a “shyscraper” and a “betrayal.”
The famously anonymous British street artist describes the building, which will be completed in 2014, as “vanilla” and “something they would build in Canada.”
He added, “It looks like it never wanted to be built in the first place.”
According to The New York Times, Banksy submitted the op-ed — entitled “The biggest eyesore in New York is not the graffiti, argues Banksy, it’s under construction at ground zero” — and artwork, but the paper declined to publish it.
“We couldn’t agree on either the piece or the art, so it was rejected,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, told CNN.
Instead, Banksy published the scathing piece on his blog, which he has been using to unveil new works of art around New York from his monthlong series “Better Out Than In.”
“Today’s piece was going to be an op-ed column in the New York Times. But they declined to publish what I supplied,” Banksy wrote on his site.
Instead he took his familiar graffiti medium, stenciling, “This site contains blocked messages,” on a wall in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.
In his essay, Banksy writes the tower is a construction sign that says New York has lost its nerve.
“It would be easy to view One World Trade Centre as a betrayal of everyone who lost their lives on September 11th, because it so clearly proclaims the terrorists won,” he wrote.
New Yorkers who were directly affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001, were insulted by Banksy’s remarks.
“I think it’s a disgrace to New York City and all the families who lost loved ones on 9/11,” said former fire department Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jimmy, was one of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.
“The attacks of September 11th were an attack on all of us and we will live out our lives in their shadow. But it’s also how we react to adversity that defines us. And the response? 104 floors of compromise?” wrote Banksy.
“He is looking for publicity,” Riches said, “I don’t think anyone should care what he says.”
Designed by architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, One World Trade Center is a 1,776-foot tall, 3.5-million-square-foot building that includes office space, an observation deck and high-end restaurants, according to the World Trade Center website. It is one of five skyscrapers to be built at the site.
“To have the marker in the sky is an important thing for people traveling around the city. But as a marker, it also says downtown is back. It now has a place that responds to the midtown of New York that was missing for so long,” Childs told CNN in April 2012.
During his visit to New York, Banksy has also referenced September 11 in a street art stencil of the Twin Towers in Tribeca. He placed an orange daisy near where the planes struck the north tower.
Sally Regenhard, a leading voice for families of 9/11 victims, lost her firefighter son, Christian in the attacks.
“To me it wasn’t a flower. It looked like an explosion, a fire explosion,” said Regenhard.
Regenhard told CNN she is not against Banksy.
“It’s just a PR thing,” Regenhard said. “I’m more concerned with the safety of the building than design.”
Riches looks forward to the new skyscraper.
“It’s part of our skyline,” Riches said. “It’s what future generations will look at.”
Century 21 Department Store had planned to show Banksy’s work starting Tuesday, but after the artist’s essay, the iconic retailer has reconsidered.
“Due to recent controversial comments, Century 21 Department Store has decided to cancel the Banksy exhibit,” said spokeswoman Heather Feinmel.
The Century 21 in downtown Manhattan is very close to the World Trade Center and had to be evacuated after the building was badly damaged on September 11.
The store was closed for five months before reopening at the same location.
Banksy was not directly involved with the show.