Sotheby’s and Banksy may seem like odd bedfellows, one is an auction house that rakes in hundreds of millions of pounds a year from art auctions while the other is a street artist, who despite profiting from art sales, likes to stick two fingers up at the commercial art world.
This is why ‘unauthorised’ features in the title of the exhibition and the artist has distanced himself from this show, which has been curated by his former agent Steve Lazarides who features in this short promotional video and is interviewed about the exhibition.
Lazarides’ use of a fire extinguisher to cover the pristine white walls with red and black paint does give the exhibition a bit of a street art vibe but there’s no mistaking that this is a high-end Mayfair gallery space and not the grotty east end gallery where Banksy’s art would probably feel more at home.
Having said that, it’s a very comprehensive exhibition featuring over 70 works by Banksy. There are several familiar works of his on display including the kissing policemen and the rioter about to hurl a bouquet of flowers, but there are also a lot that we hadn’t seen before.
UFOs and a prisoner from Guantanamo bay invade idyllic landscapes and none of Banksy’s political edge is lost when the iconic and terrified image of a naked fleeing Vietnamese girl is re-positioned so that she’s holding hands with Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse.
Banksy doesn’t strike us as the type of artist who would ever buy into the concept of an official retrospective so this is about as comprehensive an overview that you’re likely to see in one location. Plus it’s free to view before it’s auctioned, unlike the rather expensive and limited showing that the Sincura group put on in April.
Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective curated by Steve Lazarides is on at Sotheby’s S|2 gallery, 31 St. George St, W1S 2FJ until 25 July. Entrance is free.