Graffiti artists, commonly called taggers for the tags, or names, they use to sign their work, have always done what so many critics want from fine artists: they practice a risky art. A marriage of aesthetics and anarchy, the renegades of graffiti desecrate private and public property in the name (or tag) of artistic vision. Now a company called Graffiti Tracker is on their case, using GPS and sundry other new age forensics to help communities confiscate the (spray) cans. It’s about $20,000 a year. One client, the municipality of Carson, California, apprehended 28 vandals last year using the technology, charging one kid with 108 acts of vandalism—and making lots of people want to see what the heck Carson looks like.
The English street/graffiti artist Banksy has not been targeted by Graffiti Tracker, but the art world has him in its sights (though it still wonders what he looks like: he maintains anonymity). Following in that venerated, wink-wink transition from rebel to darling (hello, Sir Michael Philip Jagger?), five years ago Banksy’s Space Girl & Bird sold at auction for just under $600,000.