First Look review: “The Art of Banksy” exhibit in Chicago gives the public access to some of the world’s most illusive works of art
By Michael Dritto
Photos by Kyle Flubacker
Location: 360 N. State Street in downtown Chicago. Visit BanksyExhibit.com for ticket information. Currently running through Oct. 31, 2021.
Background: Having previously welcomed more than 750,000 visitors worldwide in cities like Melbourne, Tel Aviv and Toronto, The Art of Banksy — an art exhibit containing 80 original works of “Banksy” — has settled in Chicago. If you are unfamiliar with Banksy, he is a famous British street artist known for his satirical commentary, distinctive use of stencils and success in remaining anonymous while continuing to create street art for the last 30 years.
The majority of his works are often displayed illegally in public areas. Due to the illegality of street art, his works often hold short life spans. Although he has created prints sold through exhibitions, he has since discontinued the practice. This, combined with his growing popularity, has led to high demand for the previously sold works. This exhibit is a collection of those privately-owned pieces.
What to expect: With 80 pieces of his work, The Art of Banksy boasts that it is the largest touring exhibition of authentic Banksy artworks in the world. This walk-through art exhibit is unique in the fact that it is not authorized or curated by the artist himself. Rather, it has been sourced from various private collections.
Organized seemingly chronologically, this collection both serves as an introduction to those who are new to the acclaimed artist, as well as a bit of a historic walk-through of the evolution of his work to those who have followed his career. I highly recommend grabbing one of the handheld audio guides for an even more thorough explanation of what makes Banksy such a unique artist.
If you are unfamiliar with Banksy, he is a famous British street artist known for his satirical commentary, distinctive use of stencils and success in remaining anonymous while continuing to create street art for the last 30 years.
What stood out: While many of Banksy’s works are iconic and easily identifiable, much like any famous piece of artwork, there is something gratifying about seeing them in person. This particular exhibit presents many iterations of well-known works such as Flower Thrower, Rude Copper and Girl with Balloon.
Having seen his award-winning documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, I thought that I had full understanding of Banksy’s background. I was excited to find myself learning new things about the artist because of this exhibit. And even though you do find yourself exiting through a gift shop, a pit stop at the bar just before the gift shop helps to lighten the irony.
Final thoughts: If you are a fan of his work, then you will definitely enjoy The Art of Banksy. If you are new to his work, then you might enjoy The Art of Banksy. If you are Banksy, then you probably won’t enjoy The Art of Banksy, since he is pretty well known to be against things like this. But since most people aren’t Banksy, something tells me the odds are in your favor.