Review of 'The Art of Banksy'

the_art_of_banksy.jpg https://artofbanksy.co.uk/

We are fans of the work of street artist “Banksy” (whose identity remains a mystery) despite, of course, the fact that he often breaks the law his wit and insight are masterly evident in his work. Incidentally, on the subject of breaking the law a Banksy quote from the exhibition: “Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It's yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

Exhibits

When we heard there was to be an exhibit of his works that are held privately (though not authorized by Banksy himself) we could not resist seeing some his iconic imagery in person. The entrance to the exhibit is a small door on Earlham Street just north of Covent Garden in Seven Dials. All tickets are purchased in advance and at the entrance you are asked to check any bags you might have. We were also offered an audio guide (£5) or a “deal” of the audio guide plus exhibition book (£15). I went for the later though the audio guide does not add much to the exhibit and only has something like 12 recorded clips on it. The exhibition guide is a bit better with high-quality pictures of many of the pieces and much of the exhibition material.

Exhibits

The exhibit itself is in the basement of the warehouse and extends through 6 rooms starting with “Timeline”, followed by “Print Room”, “Cultural Contributions”, “Canvasses and Uniques”, “Barely Legal” then “Photo Wall” where you can indulge your selfie mania.

The historical information was quite interesting and featured some of his more unusual work that you seldom see such as an original piece he placed on the wall of an art gallery. The “Timeline” section does give you a good background to the artist including what little is known about him as well as information about his art shows and films. The information given for each piece is spartan but there are the occasional notes on the wall as well as copious quotes from Banksy himself.

Print Room

Several of the pieces have identifying features (such as print number) removed so the owner cannot be identified but for the most part the pieces are unmodified from their produced form. Here we learn that a young Banksy learned from an early age that to be a successful street artist meant you had to be quick so got into his trademark stencilling technique early on. With his increased popularity he started into creating prints that initially sold very cheaply but quickly became a lucrative source of income. The exhibition featured a number of his prints in the “Print Room”.

Exhibition Rats - Lots of these about

Of all the pieces in the exhibition, many of which most will no doubt have seen before, I was most intrigued by those in the “Canvasses and Uniques” section where you are able to see some of his more unusual pieces that most definitely demonstrate his often forgotten talent as an artist. Of course, Banksy is an apt social commentator as well saying the things that many would hesitate to say in the bluntest way imaginable. An amazing man that can combine the two so well questioning and probing into what society does and thinks.

The last room consists of some large-scale pieces of Banksy art where the person/animal has been removed so you can step in and have a selfie taken…which my companion indulged in.

Rage, the Flower Thrower

I'm Out of Bed and Dressed

This is Not a Photo Opportunity

Girl with Balloon

At the end of the exhibition you “Exit Through the Gift Shop” which here is tinged with more than a bit of irony (see my review of this film here). The shop features mostly exhibition logos and memorabilia with nothing much of any note.

Generally the exhibit was slightly disappointing as I would have liked more critique or commentary on the pieces. What was there was quite simple and plain with no deep insights on offer. For an artist known for his complex social commentary there was none of that in evidence to put the pieces in context. At £25 for a ticket (Monday to Friday; £31.50 on weekends) I would have expected more but it seems that perhaps here the exhibitors are capitalizing on the popularity of the man providing the minimum acceptable content to keep the punters happy.

Still, some amazing pieces that will make you laugh, cry, and, perhaps, think…

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2021-07-09



The Art of Banksy

Location: London (England)

Address: 50 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LJ ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Covent Garden TUBE Leicester Square

URL: https://artofbanksy.co.uk/

This is in the former location of Belgo Central, in the basement of a former warehouse.