With the recent Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now's The Time exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, it's very timely indeed that Mongrel Media has released Chris Moukarbel's "Banksy Does New York" this week-end (check your local cinema). Graffiti-style guerrilla art continues to be the rage on the art scene, whether some art critics approve or not: street art is hot. In a world where social media has become a sure-fire way to fuel excitement in the now, the furor over British artist Banksy is heightened by the fact that he/she/they continue to remain anonymous.
"Banksy Does New York" is not so much about the artist as it is about the artist's work and his impact on the public. In October 2013, Banksy announced a one month residency in New York. Artwork appeared all over the five boroughs, each one announced via social media and followed by New Yorkers eager to spot a Banksy before the work was stolen, painted over or removed by owners who saw the art as an act of vandalism.
Moukarbel's pacing of the film aptly captures the hunt for the pieces as excitement builds with each siting. Who is Banksy? Where will the next piece be? Interviews with Banksy followers, some of whom are just in it for the chase, add to the film's treatise about Art and the perpetual conflict between its intangible and tangible value. On the one hand, you have the general public interested in art that has not been foisted upon them by the usual authorities, and, on the other, you have those who see Banksy as an opportunist lacking in talent whose work will not stand the test of time. Whichever side you are on, "Banksy Does New York" is a spirited film that will leave you thinking the inevitable: could I do that? The answer for most of us will be a realistic, "no".
Photos/trailer courtesy of Mongrel Media