By Sandra Schulman
Exhibiting art without permission?
Two can play that game.
The work of Banksy, the mysterious British street artist, will be featured in an exhibit opening Saturday at Magic City in Miami. It is organized by Banksy’s former art dealer Steve Lazarides, with whom he had a falling-out a decade ago. But Lazarides has more than 80 pieces Banksy created for sanctioned sale.
Not all of his work is rogue street art that makes headlines more for its audaciousness than its merit.
“Commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist. We’re not supposed to be embraced in that way. When you look at how society rewards so many of the wrong people, it’s hard not to view financial reimbursement as a badge of self-serving mediocrity,” Banksy said in an interview with the now-defunct Village Voice.
But something finances trips around the world and the creation of everything from a live painted elephant to a theme park called Dismaland Bemusement Park to a remote-controlled shredding of a piece at auction that sold for more than $1 million.
The shredded auction work stunt was his most viral one yet. A few seconds after the close of a Sotheby’s auction Oct. 5, a framed original spray-paint on canvas of Girl and Balloon (2006) started buzzing and moved down the bottom of the gaudy large gilded frame through a built-in hidden shredder. It stopped halfway, but was supposed to go all the way through and flutter in strips to the floor, but no matter – the value and the artist’s visibility increased the bottom line all the way.
“Banksy pranked the insidious auction world and disrupted the flow of capital — if only for an evening,” New York magazine critic Jerry Saltz tweeted. “I’m not a Banksy fan but this made we want to dance barefoot with him.”
Of the exhibit coming our way on Banksy’s official website, the artist writes:
“Banksy is NOT… represented by Steve Lazarides or any other commercial gallery. Members of the public should be aware there has been a recent spate of Banksy exhibitions, none of which are consensual. They’ve been organized entirely without the artist’s knowledge or involvement. Please treat them accordingly.”
Then there are two columns of “REAL” and “FAKE” exhibitions on his site. Miami is not on the list (yet), but considering several of the “fake” exhibitions include tour stops of The Art of Banksy, the list might be updated soon.
Lazarides has gone out of his way to be upfront about it, noting The Art of Banksy features no art removed from walls. The works come from legit collectors who mostly have the art stored away, and he wants to share them.
The official site for the exhibition, which has been traveling the world since early this year, notes that organizers will offer 50,000 free tickets to “at-risk youth and charities” in Miami to see the show. The 20,000-square-foot raw warehouse space in the hot new art district was chosen because it is like the spaces in which Banksy and Steve Lazarides once mounted shows together.
The vast collection has generated buzz worldwide in art world cities like Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Auckland and most recently in Toronto. The show’s producer, Corey Ross, founder of Starvox Exhibits, show producer, answered some questions for us.
Why was Miami chosen for the exhibit?
Miami is an art city — for traditional art, art events such as Art Basel, and also one of the world’s best street art cities. There is no other city that makes as much sense to open this show in the U.S. Add to that the fabulous opportunity to be part of the launch of Magic City Studios, and the revitalization of Little Haiti and you have the perfect location for a Banksy exhibit to have an impact on the community.
What may surprise people who see the show?
This exhibit is a rare window into the world of Banksy — you see the art he created specifically for collectors, showcased in the way that his major exhibitions between 2003 and 2008 were staged — in raw warehouse space. Add to that the behind-the-scenes stories and actual photographs of Banksy in action that Steve Lazarides provides, and you really do get a special backstage look at the world of Banksy.
What do you think it is about Banksy that makes him such a fascinating art world — and beyond — figure?
I believe it is a combination of his anonymity, the simplicity of his aesthetic, the humor fused with politics that inspires his work, and finally the audacity of his pranks and stunts — shredding the art, creating Dismaland Besumement Park, sneaking his art into exhibits. This is what makes him so fascinating.
Any chance the artist himself will pop up in Miami to do a stealth artwork?
There is always a chance. He might be in Miami right now.
The Art of Banksy runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 at Magic City Studios, 6301 N.E. 4th Ave., Miami. Hours are Monday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $50 at www.banksyexhibit.com.