London hosts first unauthorised Banksy exhibition

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More than 70 pieces of work by the world’s most famous and most mysterious street artist, Banksy, are going on display in London, some of them never seen by the public before.

The walls of the gallery were spray painted especially for the occasion to give it a more “street look”.

The artist himself, however, did not give his backing for the show, which was organised by his former agent, Steve Lazarides, who is the first to admit that Banksy would probably not be very happy about it.

“For him (Banksy), it’s probably the last thing in the world he’d ever want to see. It’s an unauthorised exhibition – he has nothing to do with it apart from the fact he painted all the paintings of course. For him – I don’t know – I think it’s interesting to get all the works together,” says Lazarides.

Among the works on offer are early canvases that were originally sold for 50 to 100 pounds. Now, a Banksy can go for more than a million pounds.

The artist will, however, profit from the show, under a rights provision that entitles him to a percentage of the price of each piece of work.

“I’m going to be really interested to see what people’s reaction to his work is now, because when we originally sold them, some of these pieces were less than a hundred pounds. So the way someone treats something when it’s a hundred quid as opposed to being worth a million pounds is very different,” says Lazarides.

Starting out as a graffiti artist on the streets of Bristol in the 1990’s, Banksy also created canvases and sculptures for sale.

His world-famous stencils feature striking images occasionally combined with humorous slogans, usually bearing anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment messages. Subjects often include rats, apes, policemen, soldiers and children.

“It’s got a genuine accessibility to it that really resonates with people,” says Lazarides. “But also he’s one of the few artists – certainly in the last few years – that has put politics into stuff that’s quite simple for people to understand.”

As his career bloomed, Banksy left his spray-painted mark worldwide, from the streets of New York to the controversial West Bank separation wall. None of his street pieces are included in the exhibition.

‘Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective’ runs at Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in London until July 25.

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