This post is a much shorter version of a post I made on the Graffoto blog, check that out for rather stronger opinions and an analysis of several of the pieces being sold.
It’s not often a piece of street art produces a profound shift in my thinking but now I’ve seen the “Stealing Banksy?” exhibition, I get why Athenians insist that inside the British Museum is not the right place for the Elgin Marbles.
Sperm Alarm, hotel showroom, 2014
Stealing Banksy? is part of a process whereby street art works by Banksy are being laundered through a “preservation for the public” display exercise before being dispatched down the path always intended by the removers – making a buck for someone (other than Banksy). To be a bit clearer, the works of vandalism created on public property by Banksy, well ok, eight plus the Silent Majority on the side of a trailer done with permission and the “Brace Yourself” done in a deal with a band who were formerly known as “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, were taken from their original location, restored, put on display to the public for 3 days in this exhibition (£20.00 on the door, no cameras) then auctioned to the highest bidder over the next few days.
Silent Majority (side of truck)
What will visitors see and is it really street art?
On Thursday Sincura Grouop held a press conference which included seven Banksy street art pieces and the slightly comical live assembly and unveiling before our eyes of the “No Ball Games” piece, featuring a lot of challenges reconstructing the top section. On Friday, two more pieces had been revealed, the “Girl With Balloon” and the “Boy with Heart” (Banksy and Faile) making a grand total of nine pieces on display. The tenth piece, the Liverpool Rat is described as needing refurbishment but any it would have taken something rather larger than a single story indoor room to display.
No Ball Games, Stealing Banksy, 2014
The organisers only identify one of the pieces, the Silent Majority, as having Pest Control provenance, Pest Control being Banksy’s company that certifies works as genuine Banksy. This difficulty with lack of proof of the artist has always made reputable auction houses loathe to handle Banksy street art.
Would Banksy wants his street work to go through a natural life cycle ending in obliteration on the street or would he prefer it ends up being restored and preserved? This is what the great man uploaded to his website on the day of the press conference:
As for it being street art, shifting it indoors has a traumatic effect on the look and feel of these street pieces. Gone is any sense of the relationship they had to their environment. Admiration for the vandal taking risks to create this piece – the “Wow, how did he get away with that?” factor is completely absent. In short, they don’t feel at all like street art. They actually look completely out of place in this situation and one would hazard in any indoor location.
No Ball Games, Tottenham, 2009
The Berlin door raises the question “doesn’t this rat actually look a little bit silly”, I’m afraid the rats actually come across as rather infantile, which may be what Banksy intended though the impression is magnified hugely by the change of context from urban strasse to moodily lit showroom. No art historian is ever going to laud the artistic genius of our favourite vandal based on this evidence.
Banksy rats, Faile Bunny girl, London Police Lad
These “restored” pieces bear as much relationship to the original Banksys as a Madame Tussauds waxwork of Lennon and McCartney does to actually being the most brilliant music composers and lyrists of the 20th century.
This art is meant to be ephemeral.
The exhibition lasts until Sunday 27th April 2014 and door admission is £20! Half of that is earmarked for charity but that steep ticket price is not exactly consistent with the general drift that the restoration, display and sale is tantamount to some kind of public service.
Don’t forget in London you can still see the brilliant “Shop Till You Drop” in Bruton Lane behind Old Bond St too.
Thanks to good friend Joe LDN Graffiti who sorted out access to the press conference and comps to go back and see the pieces after the rest had been revealed.