When life gives you graffiti, make graffitiade

Marc Jacobs <i>v</i> Kidult.

In case anyone was unsure as to whether Marc Jacobs had achieved international success through some mere fluke or astonishing levels of business acumen, then its faceoff with a graffiti artist in New York should help make their mind up.

The New York Observer has been reporting on the showdown for the last week (1,2,3,4), and the whole saga is worth reading, but here are the edited highlights.

Last Wednesday night, street artist Kidult vandalised/tagged/improved (take your pick) the front of a Marc Jacobs store in SoHo, New York City. You can see it above.

Marc Jacobs' response was to own it. First, they tweeted out the picture with the caption "Art by Art Jacobs". Next, they went hipster, with an Instagrammed close-up and the tagline "Art Jacobs @ Marc Jacobs Collection":

Then they put it on a T-shirt and sold it for $689.

Yes, $689. Not a typo. And yes, they're actually selling it.

Not to be outdone, Kidult is selling his own T-shirt, with a picture of him in the act, for $10.

It's probably a better picture, actually, and it's definitely not 69 times worse.

The whole affair is rather fascinating. As the Observer put it:

Jacobs, in this situation, has made one hell of a commentary about the absurd commoditization that some street art has yielded, and how easily ostensibly subversive art can actually be subverted, facile as it so often is.

He has also shown exactly what it takes to dominate the New York fashion work. Nerves of steel, no inclination to take shit from anybody, and the ability to sell anything for hundreds of dollars.

"Art by Art Jacobs". The Marc Jacobs store in SoHo. Photograph: Marc Jacobs

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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My son is shivering – precisely the response you want from a boy newly excited by drama

I can only assume theatre is in his blood, but not from my side of the family.

I went to the National Theatre last week to see, not a full production, but a reading of a play – Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out!, directed by, and starring, the writer himself. The pre-publicity described the play as a “big, bold and riotous look at gender, drag and fabulousness”, in which “the House of Light competes with the House of Diabolique for drag family supremacy at the Cinderella Ball”. It lived up to this thrilling billing, transcending the modest expectations of a “read-through” and bursting into vivid life on the stage. The audience, less subdued, less thoroughly straight and white than a standard West End theatre crowd, rose to the occasion, whooping their approval and leaping to their feet at the end in a genuinely rousing and moved ovation.

It was a great evening, and came hot on the heels of another success only two weeks ago, when Ben and I took our youngest to see Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman. The boy is only 16, and freshly into drama, so it felt risky taking him to a new play. But we needn’t have worried. The piece is visceral and physical, set in County Armagh in 1981; against the backdrop of the hunger strikes, it tells a story of the long reach of the IRA, and even though the boy needs some of the history explaining to him, when I turn to him at the end of the final, shocking scene, he says: “I am actually shivering.” Which is presumably the precise response you would want to get out of a 16-year-old boy, poised on the brink of being excited about drama.

But theatre isn’t always exciting, is it? Let’s be honest. Ben and I have slunk out of too many intervals, bored witless by something flat and stagey, so I chalk these two latest experiences up as something of a triumph.

I didn’t even know the boy was so into theatre until I saw him on stage this year in a school production of Enron. He only had a small part, but still had to come to the very front of the stage, alone in a spotlight, and deliver a monologue in a Texan accent. And seeing him out of context like this, I nearly fell off my seat with the jolt of dislocation, almost not recognising him as my own son. Who knew he could do a Texan accent? (He’d practised for hours in the bathroom, he told me later.) And when did he get so tall? And so handsome? I see him every day and yet all I could think, seeing him up there on stage, was: “Who on earth IS this lanky six footer with the Hollywood smile, making eye contact and connecting with the audience in a way I never could in 20 years of gigs?”

I can only assume it is in his blood, and has come from Ben’s side of the family. Ben was studying drama at Hull when I met him; indeed the first time I saw him with his clothes off was on stage, in a production of The Winter’s Tale where the director, somewhat sadistically I thought, lined up a chorus of young men to be dancing satyrs, and made them strip down to nothing but giant codpieces. We’d only just started dating, so it was quite the introduction to my new boyfriend’s body.

Theatre was in his blood, too, inherited from his mother, and he was always confident on stage, enjoying the presence and feedback of an audience, which is why he still plays live and I don’t. His mother had been an actress, performing with John Gielgud and co at the Memorial Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon, until her career was cut short by having a child, and then triplets. At her funeral a couple of years ago we listened to a recording of her RADA audition from the 1940s, in which she performed one of Lady Macbeth’s speeches, her cut-glass English tones, declamatory and dramatic, in many ways every bit as fabulous and flamboyant as the drag queens in Wig Out!, whose theatricality she would have adored. She loved the stage, and she loved fame, and when it couldn’t be hers she revelled instead in mine and Ben’s, keeping every press cutting, wearing all the T-shirts, coming to every back-stage party. If it couldn’t be the spotlight, then the wings would do, darling.

Tracey Thorn is a musician and writer, best known as one half of Everything but the Girl. She writes the fortnightly “Off the Record” column for the New Statesman. Her latest book is Naked at the Albert Hall.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder