jakub | March 25, 2024

London artist claims Bristol plaque is copy of his and not Banksy

A London artist has come forward with claims that a mysterious plaque on a Bristol bench is an infringement of his artwork, and has nothing to do with Banksy.

Photos of a sign fixed to a wooden bench on Royal York Crescent went viral in recent weeks after locals noticed it had an unconventional plaque on it, commemorating a deceased adulterer who supposedly died in 2023.

“Husband, Father, Adulterer,” it read, also adding “Yes, Roger, I knew”.

Initially, locals began to speculate that the anonymous artist Banksy may have been involved in the creation, however, now a London-based artist working under the name The Misfortuneteller has come forward, and said that he created a near-identical plaque in March 2020.

According to the artist, he developed the idea after being inspired by the plaques on benches around New York’s Central Park. After seeing them, he mocked up a series of images with significantly less heartfelt inscriptions. “Plaques are fine but they’re not really that truthful,” he said (via The Guardian). “I wanted to do honest memorial plaques. Bittersweet ones.”

One of which read: “For Barbara – Who was awful when hungry but otherwise pretty solid”, and before long the plaques began gaining momentum on social media – often being shared without giving him credit.

According to The Guardian, no one bought his design paying tribute to the deceased adulterer, but the image of the plaque did go viral.

“It’s not Banksy’s; it’s fucking mine,” he said, highlighting how the Bristol installation used almost exactly the same phrasing as his 2020 design, but changed the name of the supposedly adulterer from the original John to Roger.

At time of writing there is no suggestion that the person who installed the plaque is looking for profit, although the move has left The Misfortuneteller infuriated by the potential copyright infringement.

“I’m mad at the person who took this, copied it, and put it on a bench. It’s a reflection of how intellectual property these days is so hard to enforce,” he explained. “It’s just interesting how things go viral – on the one hand you should be pleased that you’re amusing people… But if a million people like your post you get nothing from it.”

He continued: “Even my followers say I should be happy. It’s a bit like Napster – the internet is used to getting things for free and they expect to get everything for free and not to credit everybody. There’s an assumption that if you find something amusing and share that the person doing it is doing really well.”

This is the latest of several fake plaques across the country. Back in 2012, a fake English Heritage blue plaque was installed in London, paying tribute to a Victorian time traveller called Jacob von Hogflume, and the following year another park bench plaque gained traction online, reading: “In memory of Roger Bucklesby, who hated this park and everyone in it.”

Speculation that the work may belong to Banksy comes just days after the famed street artist made a new mural in London. The artwork appeared overnight on the side of a block of homes in Islington and showed green paint behind a cut-back mature tree to look like foliage. It also included a stencil of a person holding a pressure hose next to it.

Banksy later confirmed that he was responsible for the mural on Instagram after posting an image of the tree before he painted the artwork, however, the site was vandalised just three days later.

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