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Hanksy Panksy

Mashing up graffiti artist Banksy and the film star Tom Hanks are reaping huge rewards for the anonymous artist known as Hanksy, reports John Leland in The New York Times (2/16/14). "It’s lowbrow, silly, trivial humor," says Hanksy (who may or may not be Adam Himebauch, a restaurateur). "I never thought, when I put up my first image, that I would be where I am today. It just blows my mind." That first image was "a Banksy painting of a rat holding a paint roller" with a young Tom Hanks’s face superimposed (image).

The image, signed "Hanksy," was pasted on a wall in Little Italy and posted to Hanksy’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. In short order it was re-tweeted to some five million Twitter accounts. That was two-and-a-half years ago. Today, Hanksy’s mashups are commanding as much as $4,000 each. He has been featured in "three solo shows," two of which sold out and the third nearly so. Hanksy says his formula was pretty simple — an unlikely, pun-drenched mixture of Tom Hanks and Banksy.

Ellen Lupton of Cooper-Hewitt thinks the trick runs deeper than that, however. "It’s more than a pun," she says. "Banksy’s work is hypermasculine and serious about its underground, tough, outlaw image. And Tom Hanks is just not that guy. So the humor is putting that identity on this hyper-butch material. It’s the revenge of the nerd. It has a vibe of bringing the discourse down a notch, calling out the seriousness of art." Hanksy continues to play out the joke with images of Lil Waynedeer, Meth Rogan and Ferrell Cats