Books in the MCL: BANKSY IN NEW YORK. Ray Mock. 2019

For 31 days in October of 2013, UK street artist Banksy “gifted” New York City with daily new surprises on the streets in all five boroughs – effectively involving citizens in his self-designed residency. It is traditional for graffiti writers in New York to claim to go “all-city” and author Ray Mock has covered the tags, fill-ins, and pieces by hundreds of writers as a one-man documentarian of graffiti at Carnage NYC publishing. Here he tracks the daily movements of Banksy through the city to document the usual, unusual, and often witty acts of one of the most famous, yet anonymous, street artists and his presumed team of assistants, actors, and performers. Each installation has a story that is social or political, often with a deep sense of critique.

Banksy in New York is well-illustrated with shots of the odd and interesting installations of his Better Out Than In” show as it was unveiled via social media. He also captures the scenes, sometimes containing mayhem, that popped up around them as word spread on social media that a new Banksy had appeared. For a New Yorker proud of his turf and a wizened observer of the rise in popularity of street art, Mock examines the various installations and looks for a personal firsthand voice to describe the art and the events so the reader may feel like they understand what it was like to be there.

The book captures how the Banksy team, with intention, wit, and flare, sets a new standard in the street art world by creating a direct link between his digital presence and the parallel physical artworks that included a full-city scavenger hunt, puppets, theater, performance, surprises, beef on the street, and a few sidewalk fights. It appears that Mock is surprised and bemused as well after a career of graffiti-chasing.

“I had mostly been shooting graffiti in recent years, preferably grimy tagged up doors, man-size fill-ins, freight trains and illegal pieces in abandoned buildings or along railroad tracks,” he says in the introduction to Banksy in New York. In it, the ‘residency’ is captured briefly but in many ways, it is comprehensive; including details like the defacement of his pieces, their removal, and reactions from building owners, neighbors, Banksy fans and foes alike.

Text: Steven P. Harrington & Jaime Rojo/ Fotos: Eveline Wilson

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