a Extreme tiredness tends to come over me when it’s an issue Banksy He raises his head covered with urban. I don’t know if it was my fault, or the media’s fault for constantly talking about Banksy, or Banksy’s own fault, or the fault of people who would not stop referring to Banksy in polite conversation.
However, Aurélia Rouvier and Laurent Richard’s 90-minute documentary, Banksy Most Wanted (BritBox), did a good job of keeping boredom and annoyance at bay. I quickly trotted through the history of one of Bristol’s most famous sons, with extensive snapshots of his work–on location, on goods, in the hands of collectors who tempted their free-holders to give up parts of their non-partisan walls–still allowing ample time to consider the broader, more philosophical issues that raised by his art.
The movie was booked by footage from and accounts from Banksy’s most famous stunt/clever night of marketing/a barb about the void of the art world: the robotic slicing three years ago of Girl With Balloon (one from an edition of 25) by a device that the artist hid in the frame, just Like Sotheby’s hammer who made a million-for-a-change bid. Or rather, as Handelsblatt journalist Stephanie Dikfuss points out, semi-slicing. “It wasn’t devastated,” she said. “It was a change.” The altered artwork was given a new name and date – and although it came late to be included in the film, a new price was offered. Love Is in the Bin (again at Sotheby’s) was sold for £16m in October of this year.
Is this a victory for a guerrilla artist, or a betrayal of everything a man who was first moved to people’s hearts by his anti-establishment messages that they are supposed to represent? “You can’t criticize the market but give it what it wants at the same time,” Dieckvoss believes. “This is a little weak.”
But are we just saying that the pure of heart and the empty of the bank account should be trusted and admired? How well are you allowed to live? Questions like this floated in, and I wanted to spend more time with them, or with the question of what people with Banksys should do with their gifted neighborhood or city. Should they be left where they are intended for all to enjoy, or are they—as art dealer Robin Barton asserts—as salable as any other stuff, as long as you can find their free owner and a circular saw big enough to cut bricks? (Also, are art dealers different from real estate agents? This was an implicit rather than an overt query, but I’d still like to answer.)
As factual discussions about the artist tend to be so inclined, the film preferred to focus on the question of who Banksy – who has remained anonymous throughout his two-decade career – really is. This consideration was also taken into the more interesting question of what kind of person he wanted to know. The short answer seems to be: “Journalists are anxious to get out of the sea of confusion in which they have been swimming.” Some are endearing frank about it. As a journalism student, Craig Williams made a viable case for being Robert Del Naga from Massive Attack (“I’m stupid, I was young and a bit foolish in thinking I’d chase down the biggest story: Who is Banksy?”). The musician denied it during a concert, in a way that only fueled more speculation (“We’re all Banksy!”) and several other candidates have since been put forward – convincingly and firsthand by a forensic expert, who followed the newspaper and digital. The impact of the various documents that companies associated with Banksy’s business have to submit.
Why leave the light of day on the magic? Why not, says Williams. We know who Picasso was – what difference does he make in art? For others, lack of knowledge – everyone anonymity provides – is a big part of the point when dealing with tailor-made art and making it accessible to everyone.
Rovers and Richard covered as much ground as I had ever seen, with intelligence and humility. At the very least, it would give me something to recommend to those people who always wanted to talk about Banksy, and get them off my back. Even if, shockingly, it did bring me partly closer to being ready to listen to them one day.