With over 500 people visiting this exhibition every day, it’s clear that Banksy has lost none of his crowd-pulling ability. It’s partly down to the fact that one of the most famous artists in the world remains so elusive. It’s also due to those WTF? auction prices. Yet the transition from street to gallery has never been an easy one and many graffiti fans consider shows such as this a sell-out.
There’s no doubt that Banksy’s former agent, Steve Lazarides, who’s curated this collection of ten years’ worth of work, is hoping for a sell-out, even with the £500,000 price tags (they start at £4,000). But, in Bansky’s defence, it should be noted the artist hasn’t had a hand in organising the exhibition, hence the ‘unauthorised’ of the title.
Many of his famous stencilled canvases and prints are on show, including the rioter throwing flowers and his updated Warhols with Marilyn replaced by Kate Moss. But the works that stand out are lesser-known pieces. Like ‘Pest Control – Banksus Militus Vandalus’ from 2004, which Banksy illegally installed in the Natural History Museum before staff removed it two hours later. Because it hasn’t been exhibited since, it retains a little of street art’s transitory feel: here one day, gone the next.
Throughout, his wit hits you straight between the eyes and it’s easy to see why his playful mash-ups of appropriated icons strike such a popular chord. Yet whatever remains of Banksy’s rebellious rhetoric is diminished by the knowledge that these pieces will be hung on the walls of megabucks collectors. You probably won’t see them again, so grab the chance while you can.