For those of you unfamiliar with The Foundry it is an errm, charming, artsy venue-cum-speakeasy smack dab in the middle of shoreditch. The Foundry stands prominently on the fork in the road between Great Eastern St. and Old St. and has been the hangout for hipsters, starving artists, fixies and tourists alike.
Though the issue has been in the news for quite some time now, the building has been purchased (after the landlords failed to pay off their mortage) and will be ripped down and replaced by an 18 storey art hotel. The idea is that the hotel will pay homage (i.e. exploit) some of the pieces of art that have accumulated over the years in the building- the most famous of which being a Banksy piece.
The venue gained its fame for myriad reasons. First off, the location was prime for the art scene kids to hang out, the booze was cheap, and it was the closest thing you could get to free-loving and homely in a pub/bar in London. The sofas were worn through, the tables covered in pen graf, the toilet walls constantly being overtaken by new graffiti, new art instalations were constantly being put in place upstairs and the side room was home to many odd trinkets, board games and books.
The venue was home to Pete Doherety’s poetry nights and the band Hot Chip was said to have been formed at the Foundry. The foundry was effectively everything Shoreditch stood for all in one building: music, art, fashion, community, booze and probably the ocassional drug use as well.
The all-purpose art space was approved to be demolished by the Hackney Council this winter and will be replaced by the Art’otel and will have gallery/exhibit space, a spa and of course a hotel. But, don’t worry! The Banksy (one of the largest known standing pieces) will be preserved and make up a part of the lobby.
The decision was fought tooth and nail by the locals and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group who have since taken over occupation of the building in peaceful protest. The group has arranged art events, film screenings out front, and so forth. The ex-foundry, currently opearting under the name “84 Great Eastern Street Squatted Social Centre” (a bit of a mouthful) remains “open” for events though it seems inevitable that the closure will undoubtedly come soon as all legal methods of stopping the destruction have been exhausted… which brings us to our point.
What is and will be one of the biggest draws to this new hotel? Sure, the location is great (if you like that safe-but-still-urban-and-trendy sort of feel). And why not set up another one of these hotels right across the street from the successful Hoxton Hotel?
But what is the true and unique draw to the hotel? It’s the Banksy. And what does Banksy hate more than corporate society and capitalism? Well, nothing… we think.
Banksy has every motive to do his best to put a wrench in this plan- assuming he hates capitalism as much as he claims. Banksy’s “stick it to the man” approach has usually been creative and funny. For Banksy to get the last laugh in this case though, all it would take is for him to do something simple. Paint over the graf with basic white paint that actually matches the walls.
The shock value isn’t there, but there’s no denying that it’s genius in its simplicity.
Whilst Banksy is no doubt arrogant, it has to be assumed that he grows tired of seeing his images peddled on clothing, unauthorised prints and so forth. Where is his cut? If he really doesn’t care and really hates capitalism this seems like a no-brainer.
On the other hand, what better way for Robbo to get the one-up on the legend with whom he has been at war for nearly a year now, than by defacing one of his greatest pieces. Now, painting a simple black square over Banksy’s artwork may not have the same impact as a giant “King Robbo” over the top of it, but it would be equally disprespectful to Banksy’s work and solidify even further legendary status on the man who has been out of the picture really since the 80s.
It may not stop the hotel from being built, but it would be one way for the streets to say loud and clear “not in my back yard” and both artists have compelling reasons on which to act.