LOS ANGELES - A live Asian elephant, painted in pink and gold, stands in a
makeshift living room.
Giant cockroaches swarm over copies of Paris Hilton's pop CD. A dummy angel
wearing a gas mask and a white parachute flaps in the blue skies.
Tai, a 38-year-old Asian elephant, which was
painted by British underground artist Banksy is displayed at the 'Barely
Legal' exhibition at a warehouse near downtown Los Angeles September 15,
Even in free-wheeling Los Angeles, they'd never seen anything quite like
British graffiti artist and prankster Banksy opened his first Los Angeles
show on Friday in an obscure warehouse in industrial Downtown, bringing his
subversive humor and anti-capitalist message to a city better known for wealth
"Barely Legal," a free three-day event billed as a "vandalized warehouse
extravaganza," opened with the excitement and puzzlement that has come to be the
hallmark of the elusive "guerrilla artist."
Banksy keeps his identity secret but has built up a cult following in Europe
over the last four years, placing his work in top museums, zoos or on the
"It is really amazing. I think he is hilarious," said Los Angeles graphic
designer Manny Skiles, 30, who has spent two years following Banksy's work
mostly through the Internet.
Skiles and dozens of others spent more than an hour lining up to buy $500
limited print editions of Banksy's work. The originals sell for up to 25,000
On one wall, a stencil art picture shows bush hunters in loincloths raising
their spears at empty supermarket shopping carts. On another, a masked street
anarchist with a thrown back arm prepares to hurl -- a bunch of flowers.
But the placid pink elephant takes pride of place. Tai, 38, looms large in a
room decked out with a sofa, a television, rugs on the floor and a man and woman
sitting reading obliviously on the couch. It is titled "Home Sweet Home."
"We are sitting on the couch not seeing her. From what I understand, the
elephant is a symbol of all the world's problems being ignored," said Kari
Johnson, Tai's caretaker. Johnson said Tai lives on a private southern
California elephant ranch and has appeared in several commercials.
"There is nothing in the world I would ever do to harm an elephant. The paint
is nontoxic and washable and does not hurt a bit," Johnson told Reuters.
Banksy, as is his custom, was not around to discuss his show, which followed
a prank at Disneyland this month in which he placed a blow-up figure dressed in
orange Guantanamo Bay prison overalls beside a roller-coaster ride.
Last month, Banksy placed remixed copies of Paris Hilton's debut CD in stores
across England. He gave them titles such as "Why Am I Famous?" and "What Am I
In the "Barely Legal" show, the fake Hilton CDs are displayed in a plexiglass
case alongside photo-shopped pictures of the hotel heiress and live cockroaches.
It was not known whether Hilton, who was propelled to fame by an amateur sex
video, would be visiting the Los Angeles show, which according to local media
reports has been seen by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and other Hollywood