The images on the walls of the Minneapolis Lighthouse Art Space will be familiar to anyone who has followed the art world in recent years.
“They’re very recognizable. And, of course, they’re bold,” said Nick Harkin, a representative for the Banksy art show. He said that, as a street artist, Banksy has long sneered at things he didn’t like.
“And he has a very sharp view of the British royal family. He has a clear view of war and pacifism. And that’s reflected in his work.”
Banksy is known for his anonymity, although he creates works known to millions in public spaces around the world, often using only templates. Harkin emphasized that, in the spirit of Banksy, the show is unauthorized.
“If we wait until Banksy approves the show, there won’t be a show,” he said with a laugh.
The works in the Minneapolis show are all genuine Banksy works, based on silkscreen prints of those he sold to collectors. Hagin said the owners wanted people to see them. The total value of the works on the walls is about $35 million, show organizers said.
The show is roughly chronological and also includes some of Banksy’s famous stunts, including when he started showing his productions in major museums. Ha-jin leads the way for a photo that at first glance looks like ancient hieroglyphics. But it’s kind of weird.
“Peckham Rock shows a prehistoric figure pushing a shopping cart. It was placed in the British Museum in 2005 with an informative label that looked authentic. It took anyone in the museum three days to realize Something wasn’t right. There was actually a YouTube video of him installing this in a museum,” Hagin said.
But the main attraction is Banksy’s image, including his “Girl with Balloons.” It’s a stenciled figure of a young girl with her arms outstretched towards a heart-shaped balloon dragging a string. It’s monochromatic, except the balloon can be one of many different bright colors.
“We have two ‘Girls with Balloons’ screen prints, one in pink and one in red,” Harkin said. “Certainly, it’s one of the most popular works of contemporary art in the world. In fact, there was a recent poll where people asked what their favorite work of contemporary art was, and it was number one. Is that girl? Reach for the balloon or not, depending on your interpretation.”
This is a photo of “Girl with Balloons” that famously self-destructed at Sotheby’s auction after it sold for $1.4 million. Hagin pointed out that the broken debris is now worth more.
There are also more poignant political pieces on the show.
“A lot of the work that mentions war or the police, you can see, in some cases, soldiers, armed soldiers with smiling faces on them,” Hagin said. “He’s commenting on police activity and war and aggression. One of the most iconic pictures is of a policeman searching for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz basket, with Toto watching.”
As Banksy, there are many images of mice, which Hagin points out as “an anagram of WordArt.”
He tells a story about how different people reacted to Banksy’s work.He slipped into the London Underground, commonly known as the “Subway”, and printed a few of his favourite rodents on the wall
Harkin said they were found soon after Banks left. “Now, the custodian saw the graffiti and quickly cleaned it up, not realising it was Banksy. Then the next day transport authorities in London asked him to please come back and do that. But unfortunately, he refused .”
When asked, Ha-jin didn’t want to predict how many people might come to the show. He was more inclined to answer whether people who came to see the immersive Van Gogh exhibition would have a lot of crossovers.
“There’s a sense of humour in the show. There’s definitely controversial content. That’s what Banksy is about,” he said. “And I think it will attract a lot of people who might not be interested in Van Gogh. But hopefully a lot of people who like Van Gogh will come back and watch it.”
Of course, there is always a question on the minds of some people, will Banksy be in the crowd?
“You’re probably standing next to him. If you don’t like art, don’t say it out loud,” Harkin said. “He’s still elusive. No one really knows who he is. It’s kind of like when magicians do their tricks. And you really don’t want to know how magicians do it. That’s my take on Banksy.”
You make MPR news possible. Individual donations support clear reporting by our reporters across the state, connecting our stories, and conversations that provide perspective. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.
Donate today. A $17 gift will vary.