ART & COMMERCE | “BANKSY: THE UNAUTHORIZED RETROSPECTIVE” AT SOTHEBY’S S|2, LONDON
It's been years since Banksy's last proper official gallery show, but last week his first retrospective opened to the public in London. Held by auction house Sotheby's at their upstart S|2 retail gallery, the show, appropriately titled Banksy: The Unauthorized Retrospective was executed—you guessed it—without the artist's direct involvement, authorization, or approval, and was curated and orchestrated by Sir Banks' former dealer Steve Lazarides, who briefly represented the Bristol-based street artist and officially broke him onto the art world stage with his 2006 guerrilla show in LA. "I emailed his people, they know. Not pleased," said Lazarides, who personally spray painted the walls of the gallery with a fire extinguisher to create a sort of "Street" vibe to the show that Banksy himself would never empoly.
While no dissected street art pieces have been brought into the gallery (a practice Banksy personally despises), the show does feature 70+ original paintings, sculptures, and prints, assembled from private collections, including Lazarides' own, representing the artist's full career arc, including such legendary pieces as his unauthorized 2004 installation at London's Natural History Museum featuring a rat in a glass case and the painted message "Our Time Will Come." Unlike a museum retrospective, however, the works in this gallery exhibition are for sale with prices topping out at $850,000 USD attesting to the elusive artist's staying power.
When questioned about Banksy's feelings about shows of this sort, Lazarides said: "He hates it. The show being here at Sotheby's is almost a validation of the whole scene. When we were doing this 15 years ago, everyone told us this was impossible, no one would buy the work, it was a fad, it would disappear. People tend to forget that (Jean-Michel) Basquiat and Keith Haring were graffiti artists first. This is just following on from a rich tradition."
Of course, like Banksy's film, Enter Through The Gift Shop, which began as an autobiographical piece and instead ended up as a poetic critique of the world of street art when the real-life character of Mr Brainwash became its surprise subject, the Sotheby's show could be seen as another piece of Banksy performance art, albeit vicarious & carried out by the people & system the artist critiques in his work. Banksy might not have had a say on the show's execution, but his piece in the show depicting an auction house scene around a piece of artwork that reads "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit" makes for a good proxy.
The show runs through July 25th. Don't miss it if you're in London...
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