Exhibition Preview: ‘The Art of Banksy’ is Coming to London

Above Image: Banksy, Turf War

That in the age of 72-hour-a day-media bombardment (admit it, you’re usually trying to read / listen to three sources at once), it’s truly one of the 21st Century’s most astonishing accomplishments that the now globally popular agit-prop artist Banksy has somehow managed to keep his identity yet still a secret. But that has not impeded, however, an entire “industry” building up around him.

To wit, a collection of some 60 of his works has already made its way from Toronto to Tel Aviv, Amsterdam to Auckland…and most recently, Yokohama, Japan. But at last it is actually coming to London this May, which is something of a “What took this so long?,” considering that one thing we do know about him is that he is British (some have speculated specifically from Bristol). The traveling exhibit is titled, pithily, The Art of Banksy, and is billed as “unauthorized” – which essentially just means that he himself is not involved in the production and curation of the affair – which was culled from private collectors across the globe.

Banksy, Flower Thrower

Curiously, despite his international renown (he’s now regularly fetching seven figures at auction), Banksy has not at all been collected by the world’s major cultural institutions. So this is indeed a rare opportunity to see those works up close (in a 12,000 square foot Covent Garden space), and bask in their speaking-truth-to-power awesomeness. In fact, at a time when visual art has often seemed apoplectic, nay apathetic when (not) responding to the manifold socio-political injustices of the post-millennial world (endless refugee crises, rising income inequality, the proliferation of authoritarian political parties), he has not only taken intrepid aim, but almost always hit the target squarely, and incisively.

Most importantly, this is not just some b-list assemblage. Rather, the show includes some of his most iconic pieces, both political and not: HMV Dog, Girl and Balloon, Rude Copper, and the ever compellingly provocative Flower Thrower.

“This is a one-of-a-kind exhibition,” enthuses Chris Ford, the show’s curator. “Banksy is the most powerful and recognized artist of a generation, who has been completely ignored by the establishment thus far. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be a Banksy hanging in every single major contemporary art museum in the world.”

Perhaps that is best explained by the artist himself: “Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.” And some are apparently just not yet ready to be thusly disturbed.

The Art of Banksy will be on show at 50 Earlham Street starting May 20. N.B., for those with the ability to travel to London, the NoMad Hotel has just opened nearby to the exhibition, also in Covent Garden.

Banksy, HMV Dog
Banksy, Rude Copper
Banksy, Kissing Coppers

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