Monday, 9 June 2014

BANKSY - THE UNAUTHORIZED RETROSPECTIVE

MUSEUM MONDAYS

BY: BRITTNEY SPROULE

This week on June 11, Sotheby's S/2 Gallery will be hosting an exhibition titled "Banksy - The Unauthorized Retrospective" which will feature over 70 original works by the UK graffiti artist (and mystery man) known as Banksy. The show is being curated by street-art promoter and Banksy's former agent Steve Lazarides, without any imput/involvement of the artist. Many of the works have undergone restoration and will be auctioned off, with prices ranging from around  £30 000 - £500 000. Check out a more detailed description of the exhibition here.

The trouble is, this exhibition (as its name suggests) is completely unauthorized by Banksy himself. There have been other unauthorized exhibitions of Banksy's works, the most recent being the "Stealing Banksy?" exhibit held in London in April 2014, put on by London's own Sincura Group. From what I gather, this organization is responsible for actually removing Banksy's artwork from public spaces when approached by building owners and, as far as I can tell, restoring the works.


(source)


In reaction to April's "Stealing Banksy?" exhibition, Banksy had this to say on his website:

"...this show has nothing to do with me and I think it's disgusting people are allowed to go displaying art on walls without getting permission."
-Artist quote from www.banksy.co.uk, April 2014.

Banksy has yet to comment on the June 2014 Sotheby's show. For the record, the only way to currently purchase Banksy-approved, certified-authentic works by the artist are through his own authentication service Pest Control.

I won't detail a full contextual artist bio here, as the Banksy Wiki page is quite sufficient to that end. I will just keep it short and mention (for those who are not familiar) that Banksy has kept his true identity secret throughout the duration of his street art career, which took off in Bristol, UK in the 1990's. He communicates primarily through e-mail, his website, or others who work closely with him. If he does happen to make any sort of media appearance, he usually has some sort of covering over his head and his voice altered. Banksy has since gone on to "exhibit" his work in public spaces in cities like London, Paris, New York, and beyond.

Bansky original on Israeli West Bank Wall

Banksy "Sperm Alarm," London, UK
This work will be part of the "Unauthorized Retrospective" show

According to what appears to be the Sincura Group's own page dedicated to April's "Stealing Banksy?" project, their goal with the project was to explore the "social, legal, and moral issues surrounding the sale of street art." Sincura Group Director Tony Baxter assures that "the Sincura Group are art lovers" and "Though our actions may take pieces out of the public view, our actions also ensure the longevity of the artworks."

Banksy's "No Ball Games" being installed for "Stealing Banksy?" show

What do you think about the Sincura Group's "Stealing Banksy?" project? Is what they are doing with Banksy's public art positive - i.e. preserving it? Based on the original nature/intent of Banksy's works, are they meant to be removed and preserved in this fashion? Did they effectively achieve the goal of their project to "explore the...issues surrounding the sale of street art"?

Similarly, do you agree (or not) with the fact that Sotheby's is able to exhibit and ultimately auction off Banksy's works without the artist's consent to either their removal or their sale? In other words, how much influence can a (living) artist hope to retain when their works become part of such a highly unregulated market?

Those are just a few of my initial questions to stir the pot...with topics like this one could go on forever. But that's what the comments are for! I will end by encouraging you to go check out Banksy's 2010 film "Exit Through the Gift Shop"  if you haven't already seen it. A very thought provoking portrayal not only of the world of street-art but the "art world" in general (at least I thought it was). You also get a rare glimpse of Banksy's own personality, which is interesting in itself.

Enjoy!

*Update: As of today (June 10) Banksy has added some new pieces to his website - www.banksy.co.uk

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