Despite its legacy as one of the oldest forms of art graffiti in the modern era is thought to be a catalyst in the ‘broken window effect’ – the belief that run-down buildings invite further destruction by way of spray can carrying vandals, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.
Repeatedly challenging that narrow assumption is the famously mysterious street artist Banksy, whose distinctive style of art is brought together in ‘The Art of Banksy’ in a warehouse basement in Covent Garden. Neither authorised or curated by Banksy the exhibition artworks have been brought together from private collectors, making it an opportunity to view rarely seen works.
A big fan of thinking outside the box, Banksy takes that which we’ve detached from our sense of outrage, tears it up, rearranges it and presents it back to us, only now it disturbs! Endless wars that we stopped paying attention to suddenly reawaken our sense of outrage.
Banksy’s art circumnavigates the politics we’ve become bored listening to. Then, suddenly we’re prodded awake with, ‘We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime, we should all go shopping to console ourselves’. Ironically, this artwork is worth millions, is heavily sought after, and has become the ultimate capitalist commodity.
Screen prints include a clever take on Andy Warhol’s pop art, with Banksy stripping away the glamour, and encouraging social commentary with his four neatly stacked tins of ‘Tesco Value Cream of Tomato Soup’.
Rats feature throughout but with appreciation of their struggle as ‘insignificant or unloved’. His art exposes absurd hierarchies and subsequent poverty. Street art of this kind continuously provokes re-evaluation of our world, so Bomb Lover, depicting an innocent girl hugging a bomb, justifiably horrifies, but the juxtaposition encourages refection, leading either to action or an acceptance of Banksy’s slogan: ‘When the time comes to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make any fuss’.
A must see, positively confrontational exhibition that shakes you out of your comfort zone.
50 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LJ until May 22nd. Admission: £25 – £52.50.
Photos: M. Holland