In Arts + Entertainment

Where To Find Sydney’s New Underground Bansky Exhibit

“He will go down as the most popular artist in history, by a country mile.”

They’re pretty strong words about a man the world knows very little about. But that’s how it goes when you’re talking about the global phenomenon that is Banksy.

The legendary British street artist and renowned political activist is almost as famous for his iconic artwork as he is for his anonymity. And Sydneysiders have a chance to check out some rare and unique works by the mysterious graffiti master from now until Sunday, October 27 at The Art of Banksy exhibit at the Entertainment Quarter.

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“Forget Warhol, Basquiat or any of the museum artists,” says Steve Lazarides, one of the men who has helped bring the world’s largest touring collection of Banksy artworks to the Harbour City.

“This is a man who is recognised by cab drivers in Kabul all the way to London. Try and find another artist within the ‘kind of establishment’ that has over 10 million followers on Instagram.

“It’s not even the same game as the art world, this is something that everybody can understand and nobody needs to feel stupid about. This feels like art that was made for the people, because it was.”

From a Banksy bust-up to Sydney

Lazarides is Banksy’s former manager, photographer and dealer. He’s brought The Art of Banksy back to Australia (it featured in Melbourne in 2016) and while the exhibition – currently tucked away in the Entertainment Quarter – is very much an unauthorised show, it still features over 80 original Banksy artworks including iconic pieces such as Girl with Red Balloon and Rude Copper.

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And although they haven’t spoken in more than 10 years, Lazarides believes the world “deserves” to see Banksy’s brilliance up close.

“The general public deserves to see it. The museums are too arrogant to ever admit they missed this whole movement. Even now, there’s not a Banksy in a museum anywhere in the world. This is the world’s most populist artist but the museums still won’t take him.

“So unless you take shows like this out and take them to the people – you’re never going to see it. As much as Banksy is against stuff like this going up, at the same time – the general public made his art and the general public have earned the right to see it.

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“And unless this was out and about and you could see it, it would be stuck in the vaults of billionaires around the world and the general public would never have the chance to see it – and that’s really the reason it’s out there.

“You know, there’s the controversy of having the temerity of charging ticket prices to come and see it. But you can see the production values that go into this. If this was Warhol or Keith Haring or anyone else, people wouldn’t think twice about the cost.”

Behind-the-scenes with Banksy

The exhibition is an in-depth, unique glimpse into the world of Banksy, the creation of his artwork and how it all comes to be. Along with the ever-popular originals (and there are lots of them), there are also sketches, letters, design drawings and videos of the master at work.

“A lot of thought and preparation went into the location, size and theme of the street pieces. Unless he was drunk,” says Lazarides, who attributes the “Robin Hood nature” of Banky’s myth and anonymity to helping elevate him to a whole different playing field in the street scene.

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“This was an art movement adopted by the people and had nothing to do with the establishment. And that’s why he’s got so much power and that’s why so many people follow him worldwide. But if his work had been shit, then it wouldn’t have made any difference whatsoever. It’s the quality of the work at the end of the day that’s the cream on top – that’s what makes a difference with him.”

As for where to find Sydney’s hottest new exhibition? Chris Ford, one of the other organisers of The Art of Banksy says there’s a nice sense of symbolism for their chosen location. “We built this whole venue in a week and a half – it literally goes from a carpark to a gallery very very quickly, and the whole idea about doing it in other locations – not a snooty art museum – is that we want to make it accessible for people to come and have a look round.”

Very Banksy indeed.

(All images: The Art of Banksy / supplied)

Published 13 September, 2019