Banksy show opens in Minneapolis

The images on the walls of the Lighthouse Art Space in Minneapolis are familiar to anyone who has followed the art world for the past several years.

“They are very recognizable. And of course they’re daring,” said Nick Harkin, representative of the Art of Banksy show. He says that as a street performer, Banksy has been sticking his finger in the eye of things he doesn’t like for a long time.

“And he has very sharp views on the royal family in Britain. He has strong views on war and pacifism. And you can see all of that in his artwork.”

Banksy, who famously remains anonymous despite creating pieces known to millions of people, often using stencils alone, in public spaces around the world. Harkin insists that, in Banksy’s mind, this show is not allowed.

“If we waited for Banksy to authorize a show, there wouldn’t be a show,” he said with a grin.

Images in the “Art of Banksy” show include the artists mash-ups of images that often convey a pacifist message.

Thanks to Starvox Entertainment

The pieces in the Minneapolis show are all genuine Banksy works, silkscreens based on those he sells to collectors. Harkin says the owners want people to see them. The show’s organizers say the work on the walls is worth about $35 million together.

Arranged in roughly chronological order, the show also features depictions of some of Banksy’s famous stunts, including as he began sliding pieces he’d created onto displays in major museums. Harkin points the way to a photo of what at first glance appears to be an ancient icon. But something strange is going on.

“The Peckham Rock shows a supposed prehistoric figure pushing a shopping cart. It was placed in the British Museum in 2005, accompanied by an authentic looking information label. And it took three days for everyone in the museum to realize something wasn’t right. There’s actually a YouTube video of him installing this in the museum,” Harkin said.

But the main attractions are the Banksy images, including his ‘Girl with Balloon’. It is a stenciled figure of a young girl with an outstretched arm towards a heart-shaped balloon hanging on a string. It is monochromatic, except for the balloon, which can be one of many different bright colors.

“We have two ‘Girl with Balloon’ screen prints, one pink and one red,” said Harkin. “And of course this is one of the most beloved pieces of contemporary art in the world. There was even a recent poll where people asked what their favorite piece of contemporary art was and this one ranks number one. Whether or not the girl reaches for the balloon, or whether or not she has released it, is up to you.”

It was an image of “Girl with Balloon,” which notoriously self-destructed at a Sotheby’s auction moments after it sold for $1.4 million. Harkin points out that the shredded remains are now worth even more.

Banksy's girl with a balloon

Possibly Banksy’s most popular image “Girl with Balloon” has been recreated many times by the artist. Most infamously, one framed edition of the photo tore itself up shortly after it was sold at auction. The shredded pieces are now worth more than the original retail price when the image was whole.

Thanks to Starvox Entertainment

There are also more focused political works in the show.

“A lot of work that refers to war or to police, you can see that in some cases the soldiers, the armed soldiers, have smiley faces on them,” Harkin said. And he makes comments about police activities and also about war and aggression. One of the most iconic images is a police officer searching through Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz’s basket with Toto watching.”

And because it’s Banksy, there are a lot of images of rats, which Harkin points out to be “an anagram for the word art.”

He tells a story about how different people react to Banksy’s work. He slipped into the London Underground, popularly known as the Tube, and stenciled some of his favorite rodents on the walls

Harkin said they were discovered soon after Banksy left. “Now the administrators saw the graffiti and cleaned it up very quickly, without realizing it was Banksy. And then the next day the transit authority in London asked him to please come back and do that. But unfortunately he refused.”

An image of the Chicago presentation of "Banksy's art."

An image from the Chicago presentation of ‘The Art of Banksy’. Now at the Lighthouse ArtSpace in Minneapolis, the show presents about 100 works from across the career of the notoriously anonymous British artist whose work can sell for millions of dollars.

Thanks to Starvox Entertainment

When asked, Harkin does not want to predict how many people will come to the show. He is more likely to answer whether there will be a lot of crossover from the people who came to see the Immersive Van Gogh exhibition.

“There’s humor in the show. There is certainly controversial content. That’s what Banksy is all about,” he said. “And I think that will attract a lot of people who might not have been interested in Van Gogh. But hopefully many of those same people who enjoyed Van Gogh will come back to see it.”

And of course, there’s always the question that lingers in the back of some people’s minds as to whether Banksy is in the crowd

“Maybe you’re standing next to him. If you don’t like the artwork, don’t say it too loudly,” says Harkin. “He remains elusive. Nobody really knows who he is. It’s kind of like when a magician does a trick. And you don’t really want to know how the magician did it. That’s kind of how I look at Banksy.”

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations fuel clarity in our reporters’ coverage across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspective. Help ensure MPR continues to be a resource that brings Minnesotans together.

Donate today. A $17 donation makes a difference.

Leave a Comment