A fascinating new documentary tells the story of the infamous street artist whose political art has captivated the world since the mid-nineties 

A British graffiti artist known as “Banksy” has garnered worldwide recognition and built a multi-million dollar empire, all under a mask of anonymity that has puzzled critics and fans alike. The artist’s simple, but unique style is evocative; his politically motivated pieces in particular have attracted international notoriety for their combined usage of child-like images and powerful anti-establishment sentiment. Rats, apes, and children are common themes in Banksy’s pieces, which are usually created with a distinctive stencilling technique. 

Bansky and the Rise of Outlaw Art, a  new documentary directed by Elio Espana, explores the culture and history of graffiti as a criminalized art form.  It tells the story of Banksy’s unprecedented rise to fame from the Bristol underground scene to the most prestigious high art auctions. Beginning with Banksy’s notorious Sotheby’s stunt— in which one of the artist’s pieces self-destructed after being sold at auction for over $1.4 million—the viewer is hooked. Тhe documentary delivers, divulging intriguing details about street art and its strained relationship with a mainstream audience. 

Banksy, via artsy.net

In addition to augmenting the viewer’s understanding of the inherent controversy presented by street art, Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art provides context to Banksy’s trademark works, such as the iconic “Balloon Girl.” The shaping of Banksy’s unique style by influences such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, are also discussed. The works of Basquiat and Haring provide social commentary on themes of race, power structures, “the system,” and AIDS awareness— and Banksy was inspired by the potential of their art to draw attention to key social issues. Both dedicated followers and passing fans of Banksy will be mesmerized by this rare inside look at the art world, illuminated through interviews with the controversial figure’s closest collaborators and fellow creatives. 

The documentary is comprehensive, lengthy, and has its fair share of slow-paced moments; but this shouldn’t discourage the viewer from giving it a chance. Banksy enthusiasts and curious browsers alike will be drawn into the artist’s mystique and intrigued by the inherent dichotomies presented by his work. In today’s increasingly isolated world, perhaps a serving of art with a touch of political satire is long overdue. Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art is a must-watch that is now available on Youtube and Prime. 

Banksy, via artsy.net