Gray Ghost: Banksy’s Arch-Nemesis or Anti-Street Artist?

The Gray Ghost haunts New Orleans with a vengeance, adding his own Dada-esque anti-art to walls everywhere, graying out graffiti with his own incidentally artistic approach. Paradox and contradiction abound in the curious work of this vigilante painter.

He tackles vapid political slogans and badly-rendered lettering alike, foiling artists and anarchists while adding his own clear opinion to the mix. Just like taggers cover tags, he layers on meaning, weighing in with silent commentary … especially in his clashes with the infamous Banksy. Some love him for cleaning up the streets, others for adding a new kind of art to the mix, and still others hate him for defacing beautiful works by other artists.

“To bring this back into concrete terms: The Grey Ghost is only following the rules of “the street” construct, contesting with other street artists and graffiti writers for the use of the public space as a platform; it just so happens that his platform is the antithesis of form, color and message (thus becoming a message in and of itself).”

To accuse him of being anti-street-art, while he participates very much in the creation (and creative destruction) of the same, is to deny his critical roll in adding to the organic and evolving nature of the medium. Just erasing graffiti does not always endear him to the establishment, either – he has been arrested for himself defacing privately owned or even explicitly-commissioned works by Banksy and others.

Writes Michael Martin, a Masters of Urban Planning student at the University of New Orleans and author on, of the Grey Ghost (real name: Fred Radtke): “His possession of mind and spirit is often at odds with certain artistic sensibilities, but is that not the criteria we have for other revolutionary artists? So destructive and graphic and stubborn in their vision that only time can reveal the true depth of their (often maniacal) genius.”