CULTURE & ARTS
11/06/2013 02:27 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2013

Police Confiscate $300,000 Banksy Balloons Because They're 'Not Art'

It seems impossible to talk about Banksy without talking about what is or isn't art. Heady stuff, but today, the NYPD stripped the argument down to its essentials, in an interview with the New York Times.

The subject: a set of balloon letters spelling out BANKSY!, which appeared at the end of the British prankster's monthlong "residency" in New York City, "Better Out Than In." Valued at $300,000 by a gallerist consulted by the Times, they were nearly stolen, then confiscated by the cops, who are clear on at least one point in this crazy, mixed-up universe. Spoke a commanding officer:

“I don’t have it as art on the invoice,” said Deputy Chief Jack J. Trabitz, the commanding officer of the property clerk division, which maintains facilities around the city for evidence storage. “We have it as a balloon.”

Hard to argue with such deadpan reasoning, but undeterred, and probably enjoying the plain English on display, the reporter forged on, determining that:

Chief Trabitz did not anticipate a lucrative fate for the Banksy work, because it had been inventoried as something essentially valueless and was unlikely to be re-listed by the department as art.

“The item description is never changed,” he said. “You can’t redescribe it. It’s a balloon.”

Got it everyone? A balloon is a balloon is a balloon. Unless we're talking about the balloon Banksy painted onto a wall in Red Hook, since snapped up by a gallerist, and expected to fetch $400,000.

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