Apr 242015


What happens when elusive British artist Banksy launches a one-month residency on the streets of New York City, revealing a new piece in an unknown location each day? A city-wide treasure hunt with fascinating results. Banksy Does New York is reviewed after the jump.

On October 1st, 2013, British artist Banksy launched a month-long “residency” on the streets of New York City. Every day he would post an Instagram shot of his latest piece, without divulging where in the city it was located. The result of this was a daily treasure hunt as self-proclaimed “Banksy hunters” and art lovers tried to track down the latest piece. The pieces included stencil art, installations on vehicles that moved, sculptures, and performance art. Some of the art was playful and poked fun at the art “industry”, while others touched on sociopolitical issues such as animal cruelty and the Iraqi war.

The film is largely made up of user-generated content from You Tube, Twitter and Instagram, showing the hunt, discovery and most interestingly, what happened next. The “next” is even more interesting that the art itself, as the reactions to his work were so varied. What bought such joy to some, bought anger and frustration to others. Art installations created to “deliver calm” attracted such a large number of people, that it created quite the opposite. Some work was vandalized/altered within hours, others were protected and a large number were removed. The art that was taken was mostly removed by those whose property it was placed on, and can you blame them? Banksy pieces generally sell for 6 figure sums.

We follow two Dog Walkers/Banksy Hunters (possibly my favourite description, ever) for a large part of the film, as they chronicle the month with daily videos. They’re actually quite adorable and seem to genuinely love his work and the fun involved with finding each day’s piece. We meet the owners of buildings which Banksy put his work on and see their very different reactions to being part of Banksy’s art. We also spend time with an upmarket South Hampton gallery owner who buys and sells Banksy works. He’s a complete snob and he reveals in it – it’s rather fascinating.

Watching this film is interesting from a social perspective as it shows the hype that can build behind one (?) person or behind a brand. Banksy seems to love to play with that idea, screwing with the establishment and forcing people to think about where the value in art comes from. Is this art really so unique, or is it just well-known and well marketed brand? There are a couple of pieces in this residency that really play with that idea and you can’t help but smile at the cheekiness of it all.
By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Chris Moukarbel
Runtime: 79 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: April 23 2015