Letters from America
Saturday 2 November 2019
I went to the Banksy exhibition at the Entertainment Quarter. If you go, it’s better not to buy tickets online – they are a much better price at the door. Also, to avoid walking around looking for the exhibition hall, go straight to the end of the main entrance road off Lang Road (I walked all around the place before I figured it out :-)).
Even though the Banksy images are such well known street art there was nothing “old” about the look of the show – mostly original stencils and various prints. Here are some of the street images from Google:
The organiser of the exhibition was manager/accomplice to Banksy for many years, Steve Lazarides. Banksy himself is still unidentified.
One of the best things about the exhibition was the use of videos – streaming on loop around the hall between the exhibits. They told the story of the extraordinary rise of the guerilla grafitti artist with his witty, anti-consumerist themes. It was a very well done story and made the exhibition a really coherent experience.
There was film called “Exit Through the Gift Shop” mentioned in some of the commentary of the exhibition, a film I’d never heard of. In the evening when I was home I looked it up and found a copy on youtube to watch.
The film was an extended commentary on the consumerist art market hype that Banksy parodies (and was itself a clever hoax). It started out purporting to be a documentary on Banksy, being made by a dotty French American amateur photographer/film maker. This character had, according to the film, doggedly followed Banksy for years on his secret missions trespassing at night to plaster his distinctive stencil posters and do his grafitti on buildings and signs all round the UK and both sides of the US. When it becomes apparent about half way through the film, that the quality of the documentary is hopeless, Banksy enters stage left (appearing simply as a dark hooded figure – no face – being interviewed) and persuades the film maker to become the subject of the narrative. So he does, and somehow sets about to transform himself into a grafitti and print artist (like Banksy) with a huge output (none of it displaying any talent or skill whatsoever). The reconfigured “documentary” then follows the film maker’s hugely successful first exhibition in Los Angeles (playing to the cynical undiscriminating art market hungry for the next “thing”). It’s done with a light enough touch though, to make it excellent fun to watch.
Here is a link to the film if you’d like to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHJBdDSTbLw
It reminded me of a documentary (but not a parody “documentary” at all), about Andy Warhol’s protegee, David Basquiat, who perished very young, apparently a victim of his own success. From the wrong side of the tracks, with no training, he suffered trying to cope with the hype of his spectacular conquest of the contemporary art market at a very young age. His tragic fate perhaps an outcome, at least in part, of the social realities that are the focus of Banksy’s work. Here are some images of Basquiat’s pictures – in a heavily worked totemic grafitti style.
And here is a link to the documentary film about Basquiat, which turned up in my internet searches when I was getting these images of his paintings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6ibOFlSM6o I think the film features (the real) Andy Warhol and (the real) David Bowie.