Tag, We're It: Ben Eine, Renowned Graffiti Artist, Leaves His Mark on Dallas Today

Ben Eine, the international street-art star and former graffiti fugitive, was out on Fort Worth Avenue this afternoon painting a mammoth graffiti-style mural based on his tag -- EYN -- on the side of a building. Listen: This is huge.

Earlier this year Eine was given a big wall to paint in central London, where he lives. Last year British Prime Minister David Cameron gave one of his works to Barack Obama. He's huge. Not as a person. He's a normal-sized person, but you know what I mean. He's headed to San Francisco tomorrow. He was just in Osaka. This guy was talkin' to ME! Jim Schutze.

There was a reporter there from some other paper too, but really you could tell Eine wanted to talk to me mostly. He told me, well, us, that he was jailed 14 times as a kid for tagging. Now he's gone semi-straight as a legal street artist who actually gets permission from property owners before putting up his work.

When I found him he was just wrapping up a huge tag/mural at the top of the hill above the Belmont with a lovely view of downtown in the distance.

I wanted to be the one who asked him the piercing questions, so I asked him if he was at all concerned that here in Dallas, a fairly conservative city, if people started driving by and seeing his art like this, they might all turn into crackheads. I was quite taken aback by his answer.

"I don't know," he said. "There's some truth in it. If I can run down your street and tag my name on every other brick wall and not get pulled in by the cops, then what else is somebody going to do?"

So, shit! We could all become crack-heads! I knew it! Luckily for me, there are no brick walls on my street.

Really, he was talking about graffiti -- the illegal stuff that got him thrown in jail as a kid, not the street that has made him a big international art star now.

Roy Appleton, the guy from the other paper, asked him what's the difference. I would call that a semi-good question, not quite up to my massive crackhead question, but good enough for government work.

"Graffiti fucks stuff up," Eine said. "Street art makes it better."

Hah! Appleton told Eine that he couldn't use that quote in his paper. But I could in mine! I said hell yes, we actually require people to use the F-word in interviews.

I asked Eine another zinger: What did he hope people would get out of his art?

Turning toward his mural thoughtfully, spray can in hand, he said, "I think they can look at that and say, 'Wow! Shit!'"

That's what I'm talkin' about. Art criticism. You read it here first, folks.

Eine's presence in Dallas is in conjunction with a charity art auction at the Goss-Michael Foundation this Saturday through the 24th, including works by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Faile, Rankin and Peter Blake. Admission is free. On the 24th there will be a gala evening and auction to benefit The Staying Alive Foundation. Admission will be charged for the gala. For information go to here.

Before I left I asked him if he had ever heard any of my questions before. He said no, they were all totally original. I might even paint that on my pickup: "TOTALLY ORIGINAL." My tag.