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The LA Times reports that chances look good for Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop to receive a nomination for the Oscars documentary category, completely destroying any idea that Banksy is some kind of anti-establishment bandit. I’m just surprised that Banksy could pull off going even more mainstream than he already had.

The BBC reports that Banksy’s film made it into the Best Documentary nomination long list of 15, but it remains to be seen whether or not Gift Shop will be among the final five nominees presented at the awards ceremony. The final five will be chosen on January 25.

Still, the final nomination is not exactly a sure thing. As David Ng points out, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is notoriously fickle about which documentaries enter in to the awards. Popular favorites often don’t make it into the final reckoning, and the same fate might befall Banksy’s self-reflexive portrait of street art and artists.

While it’s great that a film invested in the street art (and fine art) world is popular enough to be considered for an Oscar nomination, it just seems the height of irony that such a counter-culture figure as the anonymous Banksy might be personally nominated for a very public film award. Ng questions the implications, asking what might happen if Banksy were nominated and asked to go to the award ceremony. Well, the artist might send in a representative, or he could just accept that he is now a public art figure and do away with the whole anonymity thing. It would be nice to think that the latter might happen, but I think the former is the only possibility.

As long as Banksy doesn’t take his audience seriously, there’s not much reason to take him seriously. If the artist actually ends up with an Oscar, he’ll probably just think it was an excellent “conceptual” joke and part of his “life-performance” anyway. Boo. For more on Exit Through the Gift Shop check out Hyperallergic’s previous coverage of the film, including a review by Nick Riggle and another by Hrag Vartanian.

The Oscars ceremony is scheduled for February 27th, so maybe then we’ll all catch a glimpse of Banksy on live TV. Something to tell the grandkids Nevermind.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

One reply on “Banksy Totally Mainstreams with Possible Oscar Nod”

  1. Without trying to sound too hipster about it, I’ve actually hated Banksy for about 10 years or more now. Something just never felt right about him to me, even back then. Maybe it was the fact that his name would often be the largest element in the whole piece, often dwarfing the rest of it. Or maybe it was the cutesy jokes such as riot cops with smiley faces, which didn’t feel like something that somebody who had a genuine issue with authority or had experienced police violence on the front line of a protest would ever do. A demon face, yeah, I could understand. But all of the weak supposed irony just never felt like authentic protest art.

    In fact his images always felt more like they were actually covertly working to reinforce the system than damage it. I can’t decide if it’s more appropriate to call him a wolf in sheep’s clothing or a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but either way he’s an impostor.

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