Banksy would probably hate ‘The Art of Banksy’ — but that doesn’t mean you have to


However, before the experiment, there is an exhibition that opened on February 17th. Calling itself “the largest Banksy exhibit ever assembled,” all the work of a mysterious British graffiti artist worth $ 35 million has been lent by a private collector. , Not obtained from public display. Shows are not permitted by Banksy. “Banksy has nothing to do with current or recent exhibitions. They’re not like real Banksy shows,” said Pest Control, his clearinghouse website. “Don’t come to us for a refund as they may be junk.”

This exhibit tracks Banksy’s early 90’s spray painting in Bristol, his time at the Pictures on Walls Collective, and iconic works such as “Girl with Balloon” and “Love is in the Air.” His idol-destroying works are also lacking, such as “Napalm”, a twist on the famous Vietnam War photo, and “Devolved Parliament,” an oil painting that replaces British politicians with chimpanzees. Is not … His album art, pencil drawings, custom wear are also on display, as well as a video of his longtime collaborator Ben Aine discussing their work.

Banksy’s vinyl album cover art is on display at the “Banksy Art” exhibition at Harvard Square.
Erinklark / Globe Staff

Don’t miss the irony on display. There is a dissonance associated with the realization that those watching his flock of anti-capitalist artwork had to fork more than $ 30 for a ticket first. Or just watch people take pictures of his work and use the pictures as feed for social media.

What’s more, what does it mean that the work of the world’s most famous street artists is housed in the gallery setting? In particular, consider the fact that Banksy once called the world of art “a resting place for the underprivileged, exaggerated and vulnerable,” as one exhibition wall quote shows. The heretic artist is always partial to the grainy presentation of his work, such as when he famously adjusted the self-destruction of the canvas of “The Girl with Balloons”, and immediately after the auction it Finely chopped. In “The Art of Banksy,” two “Girl with Balloon” prints are hung behind a thin string to keep visitors from getting too close.

This tension is intentional, according to Corey Ross, President and CEO of Starvox Exhibits, presenter of the North American implementation of Banksy’s Art. “There is some irony behind the irony,” he said in an interview with Globe. “He’s his own dichotomy.” After all, Ross was the one who sold all the works originally on display to collectors, despite Banksy’s work flow in anti-capitalist satire. He said it was (often he donates profits). In a sense, when you finish your visit to the gift shop, the preceding material will land particularly well.

“He had to play the system to make the artwork publicly famous,” Ross said. “I don’t know if that potentially discounts what he has to say or the value of his contribution to political art.”

Anyway, visitors certainly don’t seem to think so. Tighe Smalley, who was with his wife last week, said he was attracted to Banksy’s counterculture stance. “There is so much social commentary on it that serious artists don’t feel like investigating,” he said. “I took a picture of his quote and posted it on my Instagram.”

Similarly, Banksy enthusiast Karl McCarthy did not show that this setting diminished the impact of the work. “He’s not afraid to tell you what it’s like,” McCarthy said by observing the original cover art Banksy designed for Band Blur’s album. “He put it right there and put it out in the open.”

Karl McCarthy sees Banksy’s original vinyl album cover art in British rock band Blur.Erinklark / Globe Staff

Dominique Ritif Nelson, a recent graduate of the Massachusetts College of the Arts who works as a hostess at the exhibition, was more in conflict. “He doesn’t seem to want this, but at the same time he does,” she said. Banksy’s anonymity “makes his art a mirror in itself,” she added. You are looking at yourself through his work. “

The gallery environment offers a different perspective to some visitors, such as Matty Kenemann, who began to like artists after she lived in Sally as a child. “It’s really great to see all his work in one place,” said Kenemann, who came to the exhibition with her father.

Others like Kerlyne Jean expected the exhibition to be more spectacular, such as the two immersive Van Gogh exhibits and “Frida: Immersive Dream” (also produced by Starvox). , She said she doesn’t care about the classic setup. “He deserves a gallery,” she said. She was particularly attracted to “Girl with Balloon,” perhaps the artist’s most famous work, and her longtime telephone screensaver. “I call it my Mona Lisa,” Jean said.

According to the Art of Banksy Instagram, no matter what the exhibition was doing, the opening weekend was sold out and the show was extended for six weeks until May 15th, “due to the popularity of the exhibition.” .. In April, the travel show will head to Denver. “Many of these parts would otherwise be in someone’s private home or warehouse,” Ross said. “So it’s great that the general public can actually experience them.”

There was one common disappointment about the exhibition among the visitors I spoke to: “I was hoping to see him here tonight,” Smalley said. Of course, it’s unlikely. The first Banksy quote on the wall when I stepped into the exhibit was, “No one listened to me unless I knew who I was.”

But perhaps one day, an elusive person will show himself in Boston and elsewhere. In the meantime, we can all go see “Banksy’s art” to comfort ourselves.

Pete Looney takes a photo of her girlfriend Christina Degaro showing off matching shoes in Banksy’s prints while attending the “Banksy Art” exhibition at Harvard Square.Erinklark / Globe Staff

You can contact Dana Gerber at [email protected]


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