New Orleans has an anti-street art vigilante named the Gray Ghost. He hates graffiti and has taken it upon himself to cover up any and all that he finds with a coat of gray paint. Recently he has been arrested for going too far, covering up commissioned murals. When famed British street artist Banksy went to New Orleans in 2008, he was not only aware of the Gray Ghost, he decided to pay a tribute to him in some of his art. As most graffiti artists attempt to keep anonymity of identity, Banksy chose to shield the Gray Ghost’s face when he painted him. He paints him covering up graffiti with his trademark gray paint.
The first Banksy Gray Ghost painting that we saw shows the Gray Ghost painting over a detailed flower. There are scant traces of the flower left. The art was produced on a bold pink wall which was an unusual backdrop for Banksy who traditional chooses dull tones. It appears that Banksy painted the space that he chose to utilize gray before he added his piece. I love that the Gray Ghost’s pants are clearly spray painted white with a simple, quick can movement. This piece can be found just beyond Lee Circle at 1602 Clio St.
The most difficult to see and most protected Banksy that we saw is on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Rousseau just a block off of Tchoupitoulas at the levee. It is painted on the side of a business that has been protected with Plexiglas. Whoever owns the land must not appreciate the trespassers that come by to see the work because it is further protected by a chain-link fence, Beware of Dog sign and it is impossible to get close to the work. The painting depicts the Gray Ghost covering up a screaming stick figure.
The Gray Ghost has not always been a friend to Banksy. In the Marigny district, directly outside of the French Quarter, there is seemingly endless street art. We had no trouble locating the Gray Ghost covered Banksy known as “Looters”. The theory is that the Gray Ghost didn’t realize that he was covering up a Banksy and was shooed away by other local artists before the work was completely lost, but no one is certain why the Gray Ghost only covered up bits of the work, a pair of feet and the shopping cart are still visible. This work was originally two male figures pushing a shopping cart with electronics inside. This photo of a photo of the original work was taken at The Orange Couch. The partial tag is still worth seeing at 2208 Decatur St.