Banksy Does New York shows how the agency of one man can evoke agency in a whole city, flipping cultural relevance, social norms and artistic possibilities on its head.

Released last year, the HBO Documentary follows the New York residency of the anonymous street artist known as Banksy over a 30 day period.

Showcasing the tumultuous art scene of New York through the graffiti-rich streets and art-covered buildings of the low-socio economic areas, the film catapults the viewer into the crazed mayhem of individuals as they come across famous art in a non-museum context.

Fear, theft and excitement ensues, with the focus on the feverish excitement of New Yorkers and their fear of missing out on seeing the works before they disappear into the realms of a photographic archive.

At the start, only one thought passed my mind – oh god it’s one of “those movies”. Over dramatized, technology-obsessed documentaries that focuses on impressing the crowd with Instagram and little about the way in which this ‘grand message’ is being displayed; through close ups to phone screens, pointless scenes of individuals scrolling, and a worthless animation of NY city and its social media usage.

Thankfully, besides the ever-present and highly irritating characters of the ‘YouTubing dog walkers’ who document their equally irritating reactions to finding/chasing Banksy artworks, the film managed to pick itself out of the social media garbage and be somewhat enjoyable.

Banksy is in any sense an enigma. Simply to define him as a street artist is to ignore the 90% of his art practice, which is the reactions and interactions of individuals with the art, along with its interaction with the area in which it was created. Director Chris Moukarbel referenced this well, by profiling and juxtaposing art experts with Banksy enthusiasts/haters alike.

The film displayed all that New York stands for: art, greed, wealth and the lengths that one will go to for the ultimate prize. The documentary cleverly shows how Banksy questioned a whole city about its morals, and implored them to explore this through interacting with his installations and performance pieces.

For anyone with a keen interest in Banksy, and understanding the cultural and social impact of performance art, I would recommend seeing Banksy Does New York.


Banksy Does New York opens exclusive to cinema Nova on April 23