Monday, 18 June 2018

ROBBING BANKSY: THE THEFT OF ARTWORK AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

MUSE NEWS

BY: AMY INTRATOR

Welcome to another Banksy-based #MuseNews! Since my last article, which explored the unauthorized Banksy exhibit opening in Toronto, there have been several shocking developments. In the span of two weeks, another unauthorized Banksy exhibit came and left Toronto, The Art of Banksy opened, and news broke that one of the artworks was stolen from the exhibit. Today, I’ll be exploring the latest news and considering what we can learn from the twists and turns.

A Banksy piece from New Orleans depicting thieves in action. Source.

June 13, 2018: The Art of Banksy Opens in Toronto


The blockbuster exhibit opened on Wednesday, June 13th. The show was announced over a month ago, and has been greatly anticipated since. The city has been plastered with ads that make the exhibit seem more like a carnival stopping in Toronto. The online “trailers” for the exhibit make the show seem like a high-suspense action movie coming to an abandoned warehouse near you.

It turns out the spectacle of the advertising perfectly captures the exhibit itself. So far the reviews for the exhibit have been mostly negative, with one critic going as far as calling the exhibit “utterly vulgar.”



June 14, 2018: News Breaks that an Artwork Was Stolen from the Exhibit

On Thursday, June 14th, news broke that an artwork from The Art of Banksy had been stolen from the exhibit’s warehouse location. Soon, details followed that the artwork titled "Trolley Hunters," worth approximately $45,000, had been stolen on Sunday, June 10th, before the exhibit opened. Now, there has been a surveillance tape released that shows a man stealing the artwork.

The theft has sparked even more conversation about the already controversial exhibit.


The Latest Literal Theft 

The theft has drawn attention to the risks involved when staging an exhibit in a non-gallery setting. The exhibition is located at 213 Sterling Road, a former factory. The large, abandoned warehouse lends itself to the “Banksy aesthetic.” Some of Banksy’s early shows were staged in similar warehouses. Banksy is largely known for his graffiti art, so an abandoned factory helps create the illusion that you’re part of Banksy’s underground world, even when you’re viewing framed artworks. The warehouse setting may serve the exhibit’s aesthetic, but the recent theft is a reminder that these makeshift gallery spaces pose major risks when staging an exhibit.

The theft also has major implications for the owner of the artwork. The exhibit is the “largest Banksy exhibit ever assembled” thanks to the art collectors worldwide who have loaned their Banksy pieces to the exhibit. The theft is a reminder of the risk involved for collectors loaning their works to exhibits, but is the theft so surprising? The entire exhibit is branded around the $35 million price tag, the collective worth of the 80 pieces in the exhibit. Clearly, the exhibit touted the worth of the art to draw audiences, but centering the exhibit around commercial value ended up endangering the art.


The Ongoing Intellectual Theft 

The Art of Banksy is an unauthorized exhibit, and the curator has openly admitted the artist would not approve. Isn’t this exhibit a theft itself? The curator is, after all, repurposing the creative property of an artist against their will, and making a major profit along the way.

This exhibit isn’t the only unauthorized show of Banksy’s work. A couple weeks ago, Saving Banksy showed in Yorkville Village from June 6th to June 11th. The exhibit included two Banksy works, “White Morons” and “Haight Street Rat,” amoungst the work of several local artists. “Haight Street Rat” is the star of both the exhibit and a recent documentary, as the piece was originally spray-painted on the side of a San Francisco bed and breakfast, but was removed and saved by art collector Brian Grief when the piece was at risk of being destroyed.

Image of the "Haight Street Rat" painting on display at the Saving Banksy exhibit. Photo courtesy of Amy Intrator.

Saving Banksy
, a small and free exhibit, seems like the exact opposite of The Art of Banksy, but the small show also infringes upon Banksy’s creative property. “Haight Street Rat” has been removed from its original canvas on the wall of a building, and decontextualized as a framed artwork.

The literal theft of a Banksy artwork serves as a reminder of the ongoing theft of Banksy’s creative property.

2 comments:

  1. It's interesting that people are concerned about preserving the integrity of Bansky's works when they are originally acts of vandalism that damage private property. I think, in keeping with the spirit of his work, it's completely appropriate for people to show his works without his approval as he uses the entire world (including other people's property, whether they want it or not) as his canvas.

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    1. Thats an interesting point. I agree that Banksy breaks all the rules of ownership, but I'm still dubious about the curator making a profit off of an artist's work without their consent.

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