This week I’m asking the age old question, what is art? And more specifically – do you consider street art (more popularly known as graffiti) to be art?
For myself, I’d say that while I don’t feel necessarily qualified to decide what is art and what isn’t – if something is created with the intention to be art – then it is, by the very definition of the artist. The motivations behind street art are varied, I’m sure. For some it’s likely just a form of mischief, for others a means of self-expression- yet arguably a more aggressive and politically charged form. For those whose work may never have found its way into galleries – this is one way to find a potentially huge audience, if only for a day until the work is painted over. Now – many of these artists have found vindication as street art has gained popular acceptance in the art world, with the work of pre-eminent grafitti artists such as Banksy taking in as much as half a million dolllars at Sotheby’s auctions. And the irony of this is not lost on the artists themselves – as is clear in Banksy’s own documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop“, which I saw this weekend.
Arguably the most well known name in the street art genre, Banksy’s film is a must-see for anyone interested in art, graphic design or any related field. Banksy – for those of you not familiar with him – is the pseudonym of an artist who has chosen not to reveal his true identity. Over the years his work has ranged from stencil art pieces on the side of buildings (uncommissioned and created under the cover of darkness) to displaying his own work (unsolicited) in art museums next to the works of the greats and beyond- featuring popular themes including politics, culture and ethics. What one might expect from this film at the outset – perhaps a chronicle of the street art scene from 1980’s to present or an in-depth look at Banksy’s inspirations – aren’t to be found. Instead we are taken down a different and possibly more entertaining path – and in the end the careful viewer is left wondering if they have truly just witnessed a documentary or if Banksy is even more of a showman than we previously thought.