Is the Banksy Exhibit worth it?
Banksy: Genius or Vandal? exhibition recently opened in New York City! The exhibit features a hundred genuine and certified artworks by the famous but mysterious the Bristol-born street artist to immerse us in the universe of Banksy and his graffiti. Here is my review of Banksy: Genius or Vandal? exhibition in NYC.
Banksy is a famous British graffiti artist who keeps his identity a secret as his works dispute capitalism, consumerism, war, the royal family, the state, the police… This exhibit allows us to see a hundred of his works lent from private collectors all around the world to be presented in a venue at the centre of Manhattan for New Yorkers to be immersed in Banksy’s enigma. The event was already a success in 15 European and Asian cities before it found its way to New York.
So, a little about Banksy. I think you already know, but he is a famous British graffiti artist who keeps his identity a secret. His works pop up in public spaces and on the walls all around the world and we recognize that it’s Banksy’s because of his particular style.
This Banksy exhibition was a success in many Asian and European countries before opening here in New York. You get to see 100 genuine and certified artworks lent from private collectors, and a virtual reality experience if you seek further immersion.
The challenge with this kind of an exhibition, I think, is presenting these graffiti in an interesting and fun way in a closed space, because these artworks were intended to be seen on the streets. Banksy didn’t make them to put in a room. But we’ll talk more about this in a bit.
Putting them in a room, allows us to see all these graffiti at the center of Manhattan. The exhibition is on the 6th avenue, which is a very busy location at the heart of the city. I got my ticket before the location was revealed, so it said something like a secret location in Manhattan, and then they revealed the address closer to the date. I’m not sure if the secrecy is a part of the experience, I honestly thought that they weren’t certain with the venue until the very last moment, but I don’t know.
Banksy creates his graffiti around political themes such as war, capitalism, and consumerism. Street art allows him to reach his audience at a closer level. He is not criticizing our world from a distance, he is rooted in urban reality, speaking directly to the passerby. This made me question if it’s fair to present his works this way. Is this fair to the graffiti to be in this room? Don’t they lose their relevance to their origins when we detach them from it? Are they still as meaningful?
I always admired Banksy for creating his artwork in public spaces for everyone to enjoy without needing a middle man like rich art collectors or a museum. It’s in line with his simple and ironic tone. But here, all these graffiti that debunk capitalism are collected in one venue where people pay to see them. And, the exhibition is not authorized by Banksy. It’s not fair to the artwork, or the artist.
In the perfect scenario, I’d travel the world and see all these graffiti at their original locations right in front of me. Until that’s the case, I’ll have to settle with an exhibition like this. But I’m still not fully satisfied with seeing these graffiti this way. You can collect any other artist’s works physically in a room, but not Banksy’s. And crises like these are the best situations to come up with something creative and groundbreaking. That’s why I was hoping for life-size projections, maybe like a staged city in a room that you walk through, something different, something more immersive.
Still, I have to admit that being able to see a hundred of his works in an exhibition under an hour is very cool considering not many Banksy fans will travel the world to see all of them. Shame on me that I haven’t even seen one in New York.
We live in a time where anything popular is milked regardless of being true to its nature or being ethical. Say hi to capitalism, I guess.