A stream of eager visitors lined up at the Harvard Coop on the night of Feb. 16, not to buy academic merchandise, but rather to get a first look at the artist’s $35 million worth of artwork. world famous Banksy.
To mark the start of its 60-day presentation, “The Art of Banksy” hosted an exclusive preview for press and guests, presented by StarVox Exhibits. The show, which features iconic images such as ‘Girl with Balloon’ and ‘Flower Thrower’, has drawn from collections around the world to build the largest body of private Banksy artwork to date.
“It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these pieces that would otherwise be in warehouses, in private collections, in the homes of the rich and famous,” producer Corey Ross said during his keynote at the event. ‘event.
After touring cities around the world, the exhibit arrived in Boston and took up residence at the Coop. According to Ross, transforming a retail space into an exhibition space was a difficult task.
“One of the big things we do is repurpose spaces that aren’t traditional art galleries,” Ross said. “One of the reasons we do this is because I think the art is better presented and finds new patrons.”
Acacia A. Gibson, who works for Carol Fox and Associates, the company promoting the show’s arrival in Boston, said Harvard Square is a prime location to reach diverse audiences. Ross also praised the site, mentioning that Banky’s provocative post completes the venue.
“I just thought having a political artist here right in the heart of where all the students are and where a lot of the politics is going on in Boston made this the right place,” Ross said.
Derek P. Zagami, an attendee at the event, said Cambridge was fortunate to host a show that has been seen around the world. “It’s something different and I feel like what people need right now is different,” Zagami said.
Ross has described “Girl with Balloon” and “Flower Thrower” as “Banksy’s Mona Lisas,” but he thinks everyone will find a piece that speaks to him.
“There’s just a lot of different fun pieces up there that make you laugh, make you think, and are really amazing to see all in one place,” Ross said. “It’s amazing how he managed to create these somewhat tacky, memorable images that are both comedic and political at the same time.”
Indeed, different displays stood out to different guests as they walked through the exhibit. Zagami’s favorite was Banksy’s infamous 2006 prank that planted edited, satirical versions of Paris Hilton’s debut album in music stores across the UK. Gibson liked “Have a Nice Day”, a print of servicemen with smiley faces superimposed on their heads.
“I just thought the juxtaposition of smiling faces with masked troops was so startling and really made you think, like it brought up a lot of different feelings — it’s clearly not a happy moment,” Gibson said.
Ross commented on the paradoxical nature of Banksy’s art, which opposes capitalism while selling for millions of dollars.
“I think the irony on the irony is that when you go through this exhibit and think of Banksy, who had this incredible anti-commercial message, there’s about $40 million that he sold at the ‘stage. So he’s one of the richest anti-commercials in the world, and so part of the irony is seeing that,” Ross said.
“The Art of Banksy” announced on February 14 that it would be extending its stay from the original April 3 end date to May 15 due to popular demand. After attending the preview, Zagami recommends visiting the show for a date or just something fun to do.
“It’s something you’re not going to see all the time, and I think people need to step out of their comfort zone a bit and go on an adventure and…explore. And you learn a lot along the way,” Zagami said. “I just think people should take a risk. Exit. I love it.”