Why The Fascination with Banksy?


I don’t understand why everyone is so in love with Banksy and his art these days. Maybe I just don’t get it, maybe I’m just not “hip” enough, but most of it just doesn’t seem impressive to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love artistic expression as much as the next person and I’m a big fan of urban art, but I just don’t get the utter obsession some people have with Banksy. Is it the fact that he’s so mysterious? Is it the fact that I’m not a hipster? Why don’t I get a hard-on like all these other people whenever a Banksy piece pops up in their city? Chicago has had a couple Banksy images show up on random walls in the city and I’ve known of people that have made it a point to go out of their way to go check it out… but why?

I’m sure I’m going to get a bunch of comments like “You just don’t get it”… Ok, I understand that, so explain it to me. What makes his artwork so special that every asshole on Facebook has to go out and take pictures of one of them when it magically appears in their city? I guess I could say that about any artist’s work, but I feel like anyone could go out with a stencil and spray paint an interesting design/piece on a wall and it would be just as good, if not better, than Banksy. Maybe if I finally sat down and watched “Exit Through The Gift Shop” I’d have a better understanding of what Banksy does… or maybe not, but I’ll give it a shot. This guy just seems like a hipsters wet dream. It’s like you’re not cool if you don’t get impressed when another Banksy piece appears somewhere in the world…

Now with that being said, I did come across a couple images he has on his website that are pretty cool, but it’s not any of his street art (which is what the above is all about). So maybe I just don’t find his street art interesting, but his “Indoor” section on his website actually has some cool stuff.

Update (after watching “Exit Through The Gift Shop”): First of all, cool fucking movie… and it honestly made me eat most of my words from before. While I still don’t see the obsessive fascination with Banksy specifically, the documentary has given me a new found respect for street art in general. A lot of it is still sort of rudimentary in my eyes, but some of the work these guys create outside of the simple tagging, stenciling or gluing of the same image all over the place, is actually quite impressive. So while I still stand by my statements regarding Banksy and the hype surrounding any bit of street art of his that pops up and people’s willingness to flock to it like wild animals, I can appreciate the fact that he is an artist.

Now I want to talk about the movie itself. Obviously Banksy is a very mysterious, secretive person so it seems odd to me that he would actually, legitimately, let someone into his world to film him doing what he does. I’m sure there are plenty of theories out there about the movie, but the whole time I kept thinking that maybe Mister Brainwash aka Thierry, is Banksy, but that seemed too obvious and dumb the more I thought about it. But what if Thierry isn’t Banksy, but the idea of Mister Brainwash is the creation of Banksy and his answer to all of the copycats out there trying to bite off his notoriety in the street art world? Meaning, Banksy came up with the idea for this movie to show that maybe society can be fooled too easily by what is good art and what is crap. Basically, Thierry went from a “retarded” film maker who just enjoyed recording things, to a very successful “street artist” just by building hype around himself through the connections he’d made. Aside from a few street installations of himself holding a camera and a couple other ideas, nobody had ever heard of him until he started putting the show together and got the endorsement from some of the other artists he’d filmed, along with Banksy himself… and the public ate up every word of it without seeing much of the work. And on top of it he sold over a million bucks worth of artwork in the first 5 days of the show!! What on earth made his artwork that valuable to people when barely anyone had heard of him? Oh that’s right, Banksy had heard of him and that’s basically all it took.

So the movie itself was really cool and I really enjoyed it and it did change my mind about some things in regard to the hype surrounding Banksy and other street artists, but in the end it lead to even more questions regarding the authenticity of the story told in the movie and whether or not the movie itself is just another Banksy art installation… which I believe it probably is. And if that’s the case, you just won me over man. Great flick.