A Banksy retrospective, featuring more than 80 of his best-known works, and exhibited in a gallery space. Does it sound like something that the British artist – an anti-establishment icon – would ever approve?
No, it doesn’t – and it’s not. The Art of Banksy – which opens on October 7 – is an entirely unauthorised exhibition, curated by the famously anonymous artist’s former manager, Steve Lazarides. The pair, who are both from Bristol, go back many years to the days when they worked together at the now-defunct Sleazenation magazine. These days, Lazarides owns Lazarides Rathbone gallery in London, and is recognised as a key figure in bringing street art into galleries.
But while the exhibition (proudly) eschews the Banksy tick of approval, the retrospective will be filled with nothing but authentic Banksy pieces, including the instantly recognisable Girl with Balloon, Laugh Now and Flag Wall as well as several artworks that have never been seen by the public.
It’s the largest collection of Banksy artworks ever to hit our shores. That said, Banksy artworks have appeared in Australia for over a decade now. Back in 2010, Time Out Sydney scored an extremely rare interview with the artist to coincide with the release of his film Exit Through the Gift Shop, and featured an original Banksy work on their June cover (above).
When asked in the interview about his fascination with rats, the artist gave a characteristically self-effacing answer: “They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilisations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved, then rats are the ultimate role model. I'd been painting rats for three years before someone said: ‘That's clever it's an anagram of art’. And I had to pretend I'd known that all along.”
It’s fitting that The Art of Banksy will open in the street art capital of Australia. Complementing the exhibition will be a showcase of some of the country’s best-known and most incendiary street artists, including Adnate, Bailer, Heesco, Makatron and Ruskidd. And if it couldn’t get more Melbourne, the exhibition will also feature a rotating selection of food trucks, courtesy of Welcome to Thornbury, a bar, and live DJs in a space called ‘The Railyard’.
Whether Banksy himself would approve of having a move like this pulled on him or not, there’s no doubt that The Art of Banksy will serve as a welcome reminder of the explosive impact of the artist’s works, and of the powerful potential of street art. And that can’t be a bad thing.