You probably heard about Banksy’s New York “residency” a year-and-a-half ago. An unassuming old man selling Banksy stencils – worth tens of thousands dollars at least – for a few bucks on the side of the street. The story about the locals charging people to view his graffito.
“The response to it would be part of the art itself,” a pundit comments about such stories in Chris Mourkabel’s documentary, Banksy Does New York, which exists as a comprehensive record both of Banksy’s artworks and their reaction – “the art itself.” The film is advertised as a “user-generated film” – fitting, as Mourkabel composed the film from social media reactions, having been on the other side of the country as Banksy inhabited NY. But the diverse perspectives the documentary brings to the table are critical to its success.
Maybe Banksy is – as an art critic sneers – a bit “too obvious” to be a truly great artist. But what this film reveals is the complexity of the reaction to his creations. Banksy’s blunt denunciations of modern capitalism are given nuance by the context that surrounds them; his artworks are stolen from the street and sold for millions. Thieves and middlemen profiting while everyday individuals are excluded.