It’s not often we come across an art exhibition completely unauthorised by the featured artist, but when it comes to Banksy , we wouldn’t expect to play by the rules.
“War, Capitalism & Liberty” is the largest survey of Banksy’s artworks, realised by the non-profit Fondazione Terzo Pilastro-Italia e Mediterraneo, exhibiting in Rome this summer and curated by Stefano Antonelli,Francesca Mezzano and Acoris Andipa.
Banksy is known to us for his cynical and satirical street art, painted by stealth on unsuspecting walls and unexpected buildings, and this exhibition shows his breadth of work from the humorous to the acerbic.The show is created with no authority or input from Banksy, but rather a collection of enthusiasts, keen to share his work with Roman holidaymakers and residents.
Because of Banksy’s notoriety, and the wonders of the inter-webs, a visitor to this exhibition will be lucky to come across a work that is unfamiliar to them. Most of the works on display have come to the exhibition through the private collection of Acoris Andipa, one of the curators, from his Knightsbridge gallery or the collections of his clients.
A couple of notable works are Think Tank, 2003, the works used for a CD cover for Blur,
and Love is in the Air, Flower Thrower, 2003, considered by many to be Banksy’s best work. The stencil work was found a wall in Palestine ,and depicts a rioting mail, about to throw a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail, portraying a hope for peace.
Lesser known works include the Banksy & Peter Kennard scuplture Watch Tower,2007,
and Lab Rat, from 2000, and early oil on marine ply work.
You’ll find no exhibition catalogue here, and no photography is allowed as you stroll through the space, with visitors paying around 10 Euros to view the works as a collective.
The highlight of the exhibition is a chronology of Banksy’s work, which spans the breadth of Banksy’s career to date and puts context around his popularity rise and international expansion.
The exhibition may seem a little bland for anyone who is familiar with his work, there is a sense that we’ve seen pretty much everything on display somewhere before, which may not be true,and it may be the repetition of Banksy’s signature motifs and technique that creates this sense.
The collection does raise the question of ‘what next?’ for Banksy and street artists more broadly.
Will we see a continuation of this same biting commentary into the future from Banksy and his ilk, with the same stencil based techniques or is an artistic change ahead ? Like anything new, there comes a time when viewers grow used to the technique, commentary & approach of an artist. The risk is that Banksy’s work may become expected, and progressively may no longer move us.
Banksy’s recent work in London signals a potential shift. “Les Miserable” the musical icon graphic was replicated on a wall outside the French embassy in London, complete with streaming gas-tears and a can of CS painted beneath. This time, the work included a QR code that linked to video footage of tear gas being used on refugees at the border in Calais. Technology is used to reinforce the message, and in so doing, merges with street art. While the French embassy promptly covered this artwork, the link to technology most certainly extended the reach of the work further than picture sharing on social media could do.
Time will tell if this merging of street art and technology is a one off or part of a conceptual shift , and in the interim ,the number of visitors attending Banksy’s unauthorised survey show that there is still plenty interest in his current oeuvre.
“War, Capitalism & Liberty” now on at Rome’s Palazzo Cipolla museum and will run through to Sept. 4.
***All images courtesy of Fondazione Terzo Pilastro-Italia e Mediterraneo