I don’t know about you, but I love a good art showcase. So when my mom told me that the travelling “Art of Banksy: Without Limits” exhibit was coming to Charlotte (my hometown), I knew I had to go. Before going, I did not know much about Banksy. I who he was because I remembered when he sold one of pieces at auction for $5.5 million and then subsequently shredded it as the sale was completed, shocking the audience.
Banksy is a pseoudym for the anonymous artist. No one really knows who he really is. There is much speculation, but nothing is confirmed. He is known for his graffiti style in which he incorporates social issues into his work. He is a huge opponent of capitalism (which is ironic because he sells some of his pieces) and hates all things that are majorly capitalistic. I cannot discuss the exhibit without mentioning that the artist is against this exhibit. He did not want people paying to see his work and the exhibit description makes that very clear.
The exhibit was shown at the AvidXchange Music Factory in downtown Charlotte. Walking in, the building seemed very bare and I was confused as to where the art was being showcased. My mom and I were led around a corner and there everything was. Now since he is a graffiti artist, most of the pieces are reproductions. There are plenty of original pieces, but not everything was done by Banksy himself.
The entire area was like a maze full of rooms that displayed his pieces. The entrance was made entirely out of cardboard and was meant to look like security at an airport. I thought it was real security at first but when I took a closer look and realized everything was cardboard, it felt weird just walking right into the display rooms.
On the walls right before the entrance there were two quotes spraypainted on each side. The first stated “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted” and the other stated “A lot of people never use their initiative because no one told them to.” Both quotes were said by Banksy.
The first section was full of metaphorical pieces when it came to war. One of my favorite pieces was a police helmet that he covered in mirrored pieces to look like a disco ball. He called it the “Met Ball” which is also the name of the gala that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York holds every May. The symbolism was described on the inscription underneath the piece stating that “the riot helmet synbolizes the world of authority and violence; wherase the disco ball symbolizes fun and entertainment.”
Other pieces included a print of Winston Churchill with a mohawk, a print of Queen Elizabeth II as a monkey, a reproduction of the iconic “Girl and Balloon” piece that he shredded at auction, and so many more pieces that represented the ironies of war.
The second section of the first room was a continuation of the war rhetoric, but also included more children centered pieces. Right in the middle of the room was another one of my favorite pieces called “Happy Shopper.” It was a statue that depicted a woman holding tons of shopping bags looking at the price of a new pair of sunglasses. It was meant to call out the materialistic nature of humans and Banksy said that he based the piece off of Paris Hilton.
Other highlights of this section included a print of a British cop brandishing a middle finger, a print of children playing with a sign that said “no ball games”, a print of Judy Garland’s Dorothy and her dog Toto from the “Wizard of Oz” being stopped and searched by a cop, and graffitted Brisih currency that had Princess Diana’s face instead of the Queen’s along with the title “Banksy of England” instead of “Bank of England.”
Leading into the next room was a wall full of prints of Kate Moss. The prints were made to look like Andy Warhol’s famous prints of Marilyn Monroe. They were done by Banksy as a surprise for Moss after he found out she was a fan. He gave them to her and she hung them in her bathroom, which I think is so cool.
On the wall adjacent was the quote “Be with someone who makes you happy” but the word ‘with’ was crossed out in red and ‘you’ was underlined, to turn the quote into “Be someone who makes you happy.”
Then we were lead into the largest room that was titled “Dismaland.” As I mentioned, Banksy hates capitalism and with that hatred comes his hatred for Disneyland. The entire room was made to make fun of Disneyland and its exploitation of children. There was a huge Mickey Mouse shaped display that had various images projected on it that included a defaced one dollar bill. There was also a huge display of US dollar bills that he painted over with various mini versions of his art.
Other highlights of this room included a pink print of two grandmas sewing sweaters that said “PUNKS NOT DEAD” and “THUG FOR LIFE”, a bent British telephone booth, and a print of Disney’s “The Jungle Book” characters tied up and blindfolded in front of a man with an axe.
The rest of the exhibit was insanely interesting. His pieces were so faasciniting to learn about and I could not stop from thinking “how did he come up with that?” A few of my other favorites were a print that showcased Biblical women looking distraught in front of a sign that stated “Sale Ends Today”, a print of a rat holding a sign that in pink letters states “Get Out While You Can”, a piece called “Morons” that mocked the people that buy his work at auctions for such high prices, and a print of a little boy playing with his toys, but the typical superhero toys were in his basket and he was playing with a toy nurse which paid tribute to all of the healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, this showcase was extremely interesting and shockingly educational. I learned so much about the artist and about his pieces and it was definitely a great way to spend a Saturday. If you get the chance to go, I highly recommend checking it out and if you miss it, most of his work is available to view online and learn about.
To purchase tickets to the exact exhibit I visited go this link*:
To purchase tickets to other Banksy exhibits go to this link*:
*Note that none of these exhibits are authorized by Banksy