Mysterious graffiti artist returns to Yale

Graffiti artist BiP installed a plaque on Louis Kahn’s building at the Yale University Art Gallery.
Graffiti artist BiP installed a plaque on Louis Kahn’s building at the Yale University Art Gallery. Photo by George Saussy .

Believe in People has left his mark on another Yale building.

The graffiti artist known as BiP, left a plaque outside of the Yale Art Gallery’s Kahn Building facing York St on Monday night.

The plaque was made of wood treated to imitate bronze and was mounted using caulk, and claimed to be a part of the National Register of Historic places. It purported to mark the place on the wall where fictional graffiti writer Sam Dilvan, whose name is an anagram for “vandalism,” had written the word “BOOBZ.”

The full text of the plaque reads, “National Register of Historic Places” followed by “This plaque marks the site on which Sam Dilvan use a felt marker to scrawl the minimalist yet emotionally complex tag “BOOBZ,” preceding such works of artistic genius as “ASS BUTT” and “GILF MAGNET.” This occurred during his oft-celebrated ‘BALLZ’ period. Although the original is no longer visible, Dilvan’s penchant for using words carelessly throughout his environment remains a guiding force in modern society and culture.”

The plaque was taken down by gallery workers almost as soon as BiP posted on his Twitter account, taking credit for the piece. However, the Gallery decided to put the plaque on display outside the museum’s main entrance from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. yesterday.

The idea to display the plaque came from Jock Reynolds, the director of the Yale Art Gallery. He said in a Gallery press release that the plaque should remain available for the public to consider. The Gallery has also extended an invitation for BiP to claim the piece, stating that if the piece remains unclaimed it will be auctioned off and the money will go to ARTspace, a local organization that supports the arts.

“It is in our interest as a teaching museum, steward of art and community institution to return this work to a public venue for further contemplation and appreciation,” Reynolds said in the statement.

In a rare public statement released via his Twitter account, BiP said “The museum’s shown a lot of character in adapting to a situation they didn’t ask for.” Later in the statement he said, “Everyone should be giving YUAG full support for quickly embracing such a crucial emerging medium.”

However, BiP is not comfortable with the sale of his work, stating that it belongs to the public and should not be allowed to go to a private collection.

“It’s not morally justifiable to auction a piece of public art. That’s Banksy 101 and where the dialogue was ten years ago,” he said. “I would rather see it destroyed than corrupted.”

The artist also offered to create a replica to auction for ARTspace in place of the original.

Local photographer Chris Randall, who is an associate of BiP, was contacted by the artist to take pictures of the piece before it was taken down. He said that he thinks the artist may not be doing well financially and that BiP is upset by the Gallery’s decision to auction the piece because he could have sold it himself — but chose to put it on the Kahn Building instead. However, Randall does not believe that BiP is interested in becoming a gallery artist.

This counters previous speculation by Lou Cox, owner of Channel One and former associate of BiP, who told the News in February that he believes BiP is trying to get his work noticed by galleries, citing the fact that some of BiP’s work was for sale when the artist announced he was leaving New Haven in early February.

Since leaving in February, BiP has worked in both Detroit and Brooklyn and been featured on the front page of the prestigious Brooklyn Street Art’s website homepage.

Randall said he thinks BiP chose to put the plaque up on the wall of the YUAG in part because of the gallery’s status.

“I think it was a spoof on a world renowned art institution,” he said. “I think in general there’s an overall frowning on street art by big institutionalized art in places like the Yale University Art Gallery and anywhere else that’s reputable or established.”

Although the YUAG contains a large collection of modern art — including pieces by Picasso, Pollock, Lichtenstein, and Warhol — it does not have any street art.

BiP’s identity remains unknown.

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