Banksy doesn’t care if you like him. He doesn’t even care if you know who he is. In fact, he really doesn’t care whether you go to see the brilliant showcase of his work that’s currently exhibiting in Covent Garden’s Earlham Street, because he hasn’t authorised it. Apparently. I mean, how could we know, since he’s anonymous and seems to get more famous the more he refutes every convention known to man (and the art world).
The truth is Banksy could feel like a cliché. He is an artist that deliberately provokes a reaction to make his point, and yet his points (around poverty, inequality, hypocrisy and the inherent privilege within the art world) are valid enough that as a viewer we don’t feel played. Or, if we do feel played, we can laugh at it, both at the work and at ourselves. The moment we start to assign value to his pieces, they do something ludicrous like shred themselves straight after sale, all part of Banksy’s acerbic commentary on the absurdity of the art world and the value placed on individual pieces.
Yet Banksy’s individual pieces do feel worth looking at. What’s so wonderful about this exhibition is that it is so accessible, featuring video footage from Banksy’s former printer who talks openly about both their ideals and their jaunts. It includes iconic favourites such as ‘Girl with a Balloon’ and ‘Rude Copper’ alongside ‘Brace Yourself’, featuring a dodgem-riding Grim Reaper. In a rarely seen public outing for the painting, it made headlines in 2010 when the work was gifted by Banksy to a band, previously known as ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’, in exchange for the rights to their name.
The Art of Banksy also features original and authenticated works from one of the most intriguing and talked-about artists in modern history, including prints, canvasses, screen prints, unique works and limited-edition pieces mainly dated between the years 1997 to 2008, the period which resulted in Banksy’s most recognisable and well-known works.
One artist talks about how the pair first came to work together and how they experimented printing with bleach, acid and highly toxic paint. He also describes the time Banksy created a special flag print to finance a Santa’s Ghetto exhibit in a former shoe shop on Oxford Street. The landlord of the empty shop had agreed to a £6,000 rent, then discovered their real identity and demanded £60,000! No Banksy fan will want to miss this unique opportunity to hear first-hand amazing insights from one of the close collaborators of the notoriously anonymous artist.
Seen by over one million people worldwide in cities from Melbourne and Tel Aviv to Toronto and Chicago, The Art of Banksy has now made its home in London, where over 90 authenticated Banksy pieces gathered from private collections across the globe are exhibited in a 12,000 sq ft gallery at 50 Earlham Street in the heart of Covent Garden.
The Art of Banksy, the world’s largest collection of original privately owned Banksy art, is now extended until May 2022 (with late night openings until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays).