Saving Banksy

Colin M. Day smells a rat in the contemporary art world.

Zbigniew Herbert’s poetic prophecy of a rat becoming a unit of currency plays out in Colin M. Day’s documentary Saving Banksy, which considers the tensions between street artists and their wealthy collectors. The eponymous Salinger (of spray paint) started working in San Francisco in 2010, and his most famous piece is a heroic rat on the side of the Red Victorian, wearing a Che Guevara beret. This makes it even more of a shame that the Red Vic Movie House can’t play this picture, since it closed several months after the rat was removed by art collector Brian Greif. Greif attempted to find a public home for the rat, while Miami art dealer Stephan Keszler wanted to sell it to the highest bidder, the latest of many Banksy paintings he’d sold for upward of seven figures without paying the artist a nickel. Dick moves beget dick moves throughout Saving Banksy — whatever the philosophy behind it, unsolicited street art is technically defacement of property — but it speaks to the overall sense of moral ambiguity that the film’s official description describes Greif as “misguided,” while featured street artist Ben Eine calls Greif’s successful efforts to place the rat in a museum “the good guys winning.” Turns out that determining right and wrong is more of an art than a science.

Saving Banksy
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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