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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
'Guerrilla artist' Banksy hits LA
By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

A painted live elephant forms part of Banksy's exhibition
Hype and secrecy surrounds graffiti artist Banksy's Barely Legal exhibition in California, which opens later this week.

In typical Banksy fashion, it was not until two hours before the media preview, that I was given the address of the venue for his exhibition.

It turned out to be a dingy, swelteringly hot warehouse in an industrial part of downtown Los Angeles.

The three-day free show titled Barely Legal - and billed as a "vandalised warehouse extravaganza" - has an overall theme of global poverty and injustice.

After much hype and secretive planning, the event opens to the public on Friday following an invitation-only, celebrity launch party.

The organisers have said Cameron Diaz, Colin Farrell and Orlando Bloom are all expected to attend.

They will be treated to a familiar, but in some respects, head-scratching display of graffiti-inspired artwork.

I'm not sure what the point of having an elephant in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is
Jason Bentley
US radio commentator

A 37-year old Indian elephant has been painted, from head to tail, in a floral pattern reminiscent of an old fashioned living room or a British pub.

The animal is made to stand in a makeshift living room, complete with sofa, chandelier and decorated with wallpaper in the same pattern.

Banksy, as ever, was not on hand to discuss his creation, but it is understood that the elephant, blending into the background, is meant to represent the big issues in life, such as poverty, that some people choose to ignore.

"I don't feel particularly incensed at the fact that he painted a live animal," said journalist Sorina Diaconescu.

"But I think he's treading a pretty thin line and it's part of his charm."

The meaning of the stunt appeared to be lost on some observers.

"I've still got to get my head around that one," said Jason Bentley, a commentator on US public radio.

Picture of the stunt courtesy of woostercollective.com
Banksy targeted Disneyland earlier this week

"I'm not sure what the point of having an elephant in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is."

"I'm not sure that Banksy's work carries a particular message," added Ms Diaconescu.

"The medium is the message and in this case just the very fact that there is an elephant in the room, the proverbial elephant in the room, is what he's trying to say, period."

There is nothing cryptic about the exhibit that features giant cockroaches clambering over photos of a scantily clad Paris Hilton along with copies of her CD.

The display features a graffiti style message, "Thou Shalt Not Worship False Icons."

Earlier this month Banksy smuggled 500 "alternative" versions of the heiress's album into record shops in the UK.

Further stunts

"I just love his approach and his style and his wit," said Mr Bentley.

"It's really very simple and profound at the same time, that's what is clever about it. In a very public arena you can take away something really significant."

The exhibition also features film footage of Banksy's latest stunt, when he placed a life-size replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee in a theme park ride at Disneyland. The operation was caught on camera, covertly, and has been edited into a short film.

As for more stunts in Los Angeles, during the exhibition weekend, Banksy's people are coy.

"Keep your eyes peeled."

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