Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective at Sotheby’s
A review of this kind would typically begin with anchoring background details of an artist, such as their date of birth, nationality, and perhaps the location of their studio. However, due to the enigmatic professional persona Banksy pulls off, and the “unauthorised” nature of the retrospective at Sotheby’s, that kind of information is not to be had. Alternatively, the accountable figure for the show, Steve Lazarides – a former associate of the artist – has collated and curated some 75 works including prints and one-offs to make Bansky: The Unauthorised Retrospective. Having used his enlarged graffiti spray signature as a backdrop to the entire show, there is an unmistakable curatorial style stamp.
Although the artist’s anonymity is unimpaired, the work here seems to have less of a thrill, and being in a gallery it’s an ironic spin on the concept of street art. For many, Banksy is synonymous with the street art; quick and exciting graffiti popping up unexpectedly on a walls and road signs. At Sotheby’s it’s not that the work itself is more considered, but perhaps that being met by Banksy’s creations on a traditional canvas surface or a print, in an immaculate frame, and in a measured (albeit it busy) curatorial display reiterates his position within the mainstay of the British gallery club.
The work was naturally spiked with the artists’ use of witty text and carefully selected statements that are as full or as empty as the viewer wishes. Perhaps due to the sheer popularity of the artist’s work, it’s easy to not expect to see anything new. However, along with classics such as Kissing Coppers and the loquaciously titled Pest Control – Banksus Militus Vandalus, there is something fresh to see. A print compared to one of his unique works like Burger King Kid or Turf War have the indubitable trace of the human hand and paint brush, which were refreshing in this context. It was pleasing to find pieces where the artist had explored an eclectic range of materials; bronze, resin, fibreglass and enamel to name a few, and Watchtower hand carved in olive wood was a thing of beautiful craft.
The exhibition as a whole is fairly easy reading, and will get a chuckle out of most. Comedic or otherwise, familiarity with the famous personality, brand or Banksy icon makes it relatable, comfortable, entertaining and, quite frankly, funny.
Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective is at Sotheby’s until 25th July 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.