Nick Vass’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Outside is where art should live. Amongst us, where it can act as a public service, provoke debate, voice concerns and forge identities. Don't we want to live in a world made of art?"
This upbeat 78 minute doco from HBO shows a one month chronicling of the anonymous street artist Banksy. But more specifically, it's about the public's response to his controversial enterprise.
In October 2013, he produced an artwork every day in different parts of NYC. On each morning, Banksy would leave clues to the artwork's location on his website and Instagram account. It took the social media and the city's citizens by storm. They went on a massive scavenger hunt phenomenon. It was all about being the first in sight and to post evidence of their discovery.
For others, it was about defiling that discovery. Marking their own brand of aerosol and even contemning Banksy's name. And for the greedy, it was about stealing it to sell for a profit.
His monthly work would range from a simple slogan, to a painting on a wall, to a concrete Sphinx sculpture, an inflatable banner and to a farming factory motif that would travel on a truck around the city.
There were also many more.
Banksy Does New York is particularly impressive in its use of the crowd-sourced footage. It's clearly the strongest aspect. It captures almost all of social frenzy in each daily artwork. There's people who are genuinely overjoyed—from driving to the location and wanting to be photographed with it. It also captures the people who are protecting the piece and feeling the need to make revenue.
In certain instances, it's about simply living in the experience. Not even a Tumblr post will do justice. The grim reaper is circling on a dodgem car at night. It's a vision for all. The passion of its citizens and the artwork alone is elating to see. As one person says, you had to be there.
It's also a film about the angst of those who were reeling from deep within. It's about the inability to use art for opportunism. On October 12, an elderly man sold spray paintings from a stall near Central Park. Hardly anyone took notice. Few passers-by stopped to look at the b&w canvases. They were each priced for a relatively cheap $60. Only three customers made a purchase and it combined to a total of $420 in takings. The next day, it was revealed that the stand was part of Banksy's month-long residency in NYC. He sold the genuine paintings for much less than their usual value.
Now they're worth over $250,000. His depreciation of a point was made.
Some of Banksy's polemical issues are also touched upon in his work. From the streetscapes in urban culture, to the divide of the city and how the world has changed.
However, they are done in the typical format of the talking head. It doesn't expand on what is already presented. This is a verbal slog to sit through. I was infinitely more interested in the relationships of those in the art world and their opinions of Banksy. Like the disdain of a New York Observer art critic who says that his work is kitsch and imbecilic. Or more expansively, a gallery owner who is eager to work with Banksy and acquire all that he has done.
It also would've been nicer to touch upon the universality of street culture. I am hoping that Exit Through the Gift Shop will show me that. It's on the radar for this week. Unfortunately, it just peers into a specific time-frame, that was temporarily exciting for many, but I wanted to feel more profoundness in what I was seeing.
It's still acceptable. People want to consume things of value. Even if they don't have the proper appreciation of what it stands for. That'll always suck, I guess.