If you read my post a couple months back about urban art, you know I’m pretty inspired by street art. During our visit with our Kiwi friends this past week we talked a lot about the culture of street art here in Israel. The graffiti art that gets the most exposure outside of Israel are the pieces painted on the wall dividing Israel and the West Bank. One of the most well known contributors is the artist Banksy. It just so happens that we noticed a billboard of his art and our friends were interested in seeing some of his work.
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ― Banksy
I had heard of the name before, but I was unaware of how pivotal Banksy has been in the world of street art. Although he originated in the UK, Banksy has painted several pieces on the wall and recently created the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. We were thrilled to find out that the billboard was advertising (in Hebrew) his pop up gallery running the month April at one of our local malls. It was truly meant to be!
The exhibit at the Arena Mall, runs three different 4-hour time slots where visitors can peruse and admire several pieces of Banksy’s work all curated by his former spokesperson (and friend) Steve Lazarides. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
Although, the artist is anonymous, there are tidbits out there about him, all with the disclaimer that everything “known” has never been confirmed or denied. What is known is that Banksy has changed the genre of street art into art for the high-end consumer. There are stories of Banksy walls being dismantled and sold for millions. It is truly amazing that something that can be seen as vandalism to some is also fine art to others.
As a political activist, Banksy gives a voice to people being oppressed and marginalized in the public arena and challenges the viewer to think beyond their sphere. He is also known for pranking and producing exhibits that push the limits of being socially acceptable. These include his very own theme park Dismaland and his Hang-and-Run prank where he vandalized faux masterpieces and hung them in museums around the world. He is edgy, anarchic, and he frankly does not care about offending others. Take it or leave it, laugh or ignore it. With anonymity it is easy to let the art speak for itself. In addition to the work itself, Banksy has produced documentaries and self published several books making his art even more accessible to the masses.
“People either love me or they hate me, or they don’t really care.” ―Banksy, Wall and Piece
What I like most about Banksy’s style is the juxtaposition of gritty and innocent; bows on helicopters, little girls and soldiers, and bombers with bouquets of flowers. Specifically, my favorite piece is the showcased Girl and the Red [or Gold] Balloon.
If you are in the Tel Aviv area I urge you to visit the gallery see if his work speaks to you. Also, as the title of one Banksy’s documentaries reminds us, don’t forget to Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Let us know if you have seen any of Banksy’s work, we would love to hear what you thought!