I finally got a chance to see The Art of Banksy exhibit on Sterling Road in Toronto and I’m so glad I did. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with much of the work of the anonymous British street artist although I appear to be in the minority. I’ve just been advised that The Art of Banksy in Toronto has been extended until September 2, 2018.
Who Is Banksy?
Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous although several news reports have identified him as Robin Gunningham of Bristol, England. Gunningham was born on July 28, 1973 so if all of that information squares up, I visited The Art of Banksy on Banksy’s 45th birthday.
Banksy uses spray paint and stencils to create works that are deeply critical of political and social issues including consumerism, terrorism and political authority. His street art first appeared in Bristol, London and Brighton and has popped up around the globe, including on the West Bank barrier.
Banksy’s works have been collected by celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. In fact, Christina Aguilera purchased the Queen Victoria with a prostitute work for £25,000.
Controversy Around The Art of Banksy
The Art of Banksy is curated by Banksy’s former manager, Steve Lazirides, who refers to the artist as “a complete control freak.” As Banksy’s first street art dealer, Lazirides represented Banksy from 1997-2008, at which point they cut ties. The Art of Banksy is, however, unauthorized by Banksy – the 80-plus works that appear in the show are on loan from private collectors. None of the work that appears in the show has been taken from public spaces.
Banksy definitely sides with left wing politics, first critiquing British social issues, then expanding to global themes. The artist, who is anti-gun and anti-violence, was vehemently against the Iraq War, even distributing his spray-painted placards in an Iraq War protest rally.
Banksy is quoted as saying that his accessible art is for “people who do not have a degree.” His easily identifiable style resonates with audiences on a global level. Not shying away from controversy, the artist is clearly opposed to consumerism as depicted in his work, Christ with Shopping Bags, which castigates the practice of overlooking the real meaning of Christmas in favour of buying and receiving gifts. One look at this moving work will instill a heap of guilt during the holidays.
Banksy’s Irreverent Humour
Many of the pieces in The Art of Banksy display the artist’s witty perspective. Soup Can plays on Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans paintings. Demonstrating his appeal to the masses, Banksy uses the economy brand soup cans from Tesco, a U.K. low-cost grocer.
In another work, Di Faced Tenners, Banksy has replaced Queen Elizabeth’s image on the UK £10 note with that of “the people’s princess”, Diana, Princess of Wales. “The Bank of England” has been replaced on the ten pound note with “The Banksy of England”.
Once you’ve finished seeing The Art of Banksy, be sure to stop at Aroma Coffee Bar at the end of the exhibit and purchase a coffee printed by Coffee Ripples with a Banksy painting, such as Girl and Balloon. Coffee Ripples is now able to use its printing technology to print any image into coffee.
You have until September 2, 2018 to see The Art of Banksy in Toronto. I highly recommend taking in the Banksy exhibit as you probably won’t get a chance to see this collection on loan from many private collectors any time soon.
Tickets are Adults $35; $39.99 with audio guide; Seniors and Students $32.50; $37.49 with audio guide; Children 5 and under Free. Purchase tickets online.