Pink elephants star in LA art show
LOS ANGELES - A live Asian elephant, painted in pink and gold, stands in a makeshift living room.
Giant cockroaches swarm over copies of Paris Hilton's pop CD. A dummy angel wearing a gas mask and a white parachute flaps in the blue skies.
Tai, a 38-year-old Asian elephant, which was painted by British underground artist Banksy is displayed at the 'Barely Legal' exhibition at a warehouse near downtown Los Angeles September 15, 2006. [Reuters]
Even in free-wheeling Los Angeles, they'd never seen anything quite like this.
British graffiti artist and prankster Banksy opened his first Los Angeles show on Friday in an obscure warehouse in industrial Downtown, bringing his subversive humor and anti-capitalist message to a city better known for wealth and self-obsession.
"Barely Legal," a free three-day event billed as a "vandalized warehouse extravaganza," opened with the excitement and puzzlement that has come to be the hallmark of the elusive "guerrilla artist."
Banksy keeps his identity secret but has built up a cult following in Europe over the last four years, placing his work in top museums, zoos or on the streets.
"It is really amazing. I think he is hilarious," said Los Angeles graphic designer Manny Skiles, 30, who has spent two years following Banksy's work mostly through the Internet.
Skiles and dozens of others spent more than an hour lining up to buy $500 limited print editions of Banksy's work. The originals sell for up to 25,000 pounds sterling.
On one wall, a stencil art picture shows bush hunters in loincloths raising their spears at empty supermarket shopping carts. On another, a masked street anarchist with a thrown back arm prepares to hurl -- a bunch of flowers.
But the placid pink elephant takes pride of place. Tai, 38, looms large in a room decked out with a sofa, a television, rugs on the floor and a man and woman sitting reading obliviously on the couch. It is titled "Home Sweet Home."
"We are sitting on the couch not seeing her. From what I understand, the elephant is a symbol of all the world's problems being ignored," said Kari Johnson, Tai's caretaker. Johnson said Tai lives on a private southern California elephant ranch and has appeared in several commercials.
"There is nothing in the world I would ever do to harm an elephant. The paint is nontoxic and washable and does not hurt a bit," Johnson told Reuters.
Banksy, as is his custom, was not around to discuss his show, which followed a prank at Disneyland this month in which he placed a blow-up figure dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay prison overalls beside a roller-coaster ride.
Last month, Banksy placed remixed copies of Paris Hilton's debut CD in stores across England. He gave them titles such as "Why Am I Famous?" and "What Am I For?"
In the "Barely Legal" show, the fake Hilton CDs are displayed in a plexiglass case alongside photo-shopped pictures of the hotel heiress and live cockroaches.
It was not known whether Hilton, who was propelled to fame by an amateur sex video, would be visiting the Los Angeles show, which according to local media reports has been seen by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and other Hollywood celebrities.