Banksy, the mysterious British street artist, whose “Girl with Balloon” went for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction, then promptly shredded itself, has a prickly relationship with commerce.
He doesn’t believe in licensing his work, or selling through galleries, but was happy to sell Banksy-ish merchandise from his own online store to raise money to buy a new boat to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean.
Of the Banksy show coming to Atlanta in September, he has written:
“Members of the public should be aware there has been a recent spate of Banksy exhibitions none of which are consensual. They’ve been organised entirely without the artist’s knowledge or involvement. Please treat them accordingly.”
(Accompanying the text is a photo of the Banksy-esque graphics on billboards outside a building hosting one such show. The billboards have been spray-painted with the word “FAKE” by an unknown editorialist.)
Despite Banksy’s stated wishes, Atlantans are lining up for tickets. As of May 13, about 10,000 fans have joined a virtual queue to buy tickets to the Atlanta show that begins this fall. Those tickets go on sale Tuesday.
“It is an unauthorized exhibit; we’re not hiding that,” said Martin Biallas, CEO of SEE Global Entertainment, which is staging Banksy shows in North and South America. “But the fact remains that you’re going to see collected, in one major venue, everything that there is to see about him, and his work, in replicas, in video and with originals. And the law allows that.”
Credit: SEE Global Entertainment
Credit: SEE Global Entertainment
The show, “The Art of Banksy: Without Limits,” will include more than 140 of the artist’s works — 48 of them are originals — and will take place Sept. 3 through Jan. 9, 2022.
The event will be staged at the Westside Cultural Arts Center, which is currently hosting “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition,” a presentation of life-size reproductions of Michelangelo’s frescoes — also a SEE Global production.
It’s one of a spate of pop-up cultural exhibitions intended to bring art to the masses.
Later this month “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” will debut at the Pullman Yards, in which visitors can bathe in floor-to-ceiling animated projections of Van Gogh paintings. About a half-dozen different production companies are staging similar Van Gogh shows around the U.S.
There are even competing Banksy shows, including shows in Chicago and Los Angeles opening this summer.
Biallas said success breeds imitation, adding that his show began touring five years ago, and has drawn a million visitors in about 12 cities. It is currently showing in Warsaw and Munich. “Our exhibit is the original.”
He projected that the Atlanta show will sell 100,000 tickets, if it keeps pace with the European shows.
The presentation will take into account COVID-19 safety. Only 200 people at a time will be allowed inside the 15,000 square-foot exhibit, and they will be encouraged to wear masks. (Though Biallas hopes that things will be looser by September.)
Biallas concedes that Banksy (whose identity remains a secret) won’t profit from these shows, but adds that the exhibitions are helping to enlarge his profile. And they are offering access to people who might never see a Banksy work in person.
“The fact that we are able to put together a whole spectrum of his creative life, from the beginning, before he was known, until today, is more like a service to the public,” he said.
“The Art of Banksy: Without Limits”
Sept. 3-Jan. 9, 2022. Tickets starting at $29.20. Information and tickets: artofbanksy.com;
Underground Atlanta, 50 Upper Alabama St, Atlanta, GA 30303.