With this much anticipated event set to conclude on May 30th, there is now only a limited amount of time left to experience the Banksy exhibition “Building castles in the Sky” at Messe Basel in Switzerland. This important European exhibition space is the host for a tightly-honed display of more than 100 Banksy creations spread across a number of different mediums. Given that we are all still missing Art Basel, here is a welcome yet provocative burst of colour and culture to mark a sense of greater optimism and the renewal offered by spring.
Presented by Associazione Metamorfosi working with GC Events, here is the opportunity to survey more than 20 years of artistic innovation and challenge offered to the world by the elusive Banksy.
As I entered the space, I was immediately struck by the compelling curation of the exhibition by Stefano Antonelli, Gianluca Marziani and Acoris Andipa (Andipa Gallery London). They have succeeded in bringing together a number of pivotal works from private collections and have grouped them in a way that highlights Banksy’s key reference points and reveals his creative drive. It’s a dramatic way to display the work with a clear emphasis on light shining from the darkness to illuminate a different path.
While Messe Basel has had to make it explicit that the artist had no involvement at all in bringing the exhibition together, the works on show tell their own story of how Banksy provokes discussion and debate on themes as diverse as the capitalist system, war, Brexit, and our children’s futures.
It’s a rare talent indeed who can produce images that prompt both an immediate reaction but then much deeper thought. An initial smile or laugh can soon change to the feeling that the subject portrayed matters far beyond the confines of the gallery space. With Banksy, it’s always topical and certainly never dull. With 2015’s “Dismaland”, for example, he created a dystopian playground as the theme park you could never leave.
Pausing before “Love is in the Air” and I am confronted with the image of a masked rioter poised and ready to lob not a petrol bomb but instead a beautiful bouquet. The medium of spray paint gives a particular relevance, depth and association to the imagery prompting thoughts about how and why we express our anger and frustration.
In terms of its iconic power, “Girl with Balloon” is a compelling image now known to millions. As the girl watches, the heart-shaped balloon floats away – out of reach but never entirely out of mind. Yes, there is a simplicity in the canvases presented but that only serves to make me pause and think just a little bit more…
CCTV Britannia from 2009 parodies a symbol of the British Empire holding her spear which is topped by a CCTV camera. It is a deft and effective commentary on the way in which we often passively accept state surveillance and the recording of our movement and activity without any meaningful challenge. An assault on such complacency is a recurring theme in Banksy’s work as he prods our consciences with his images. The artist wants us to focus on what mass consumerism and the power of intrusive governments can mean in practice.
These works speak to all ages and I am impressed that Messe Basel has an active outreach program to engage school kids with art and culture. In terms of recent artistic development and enduring creativity, there is much to learn from “Building Castles in the Sky” at Messe Basel this May.
At the end of the over 100 original works spanning exhibition there is a wall which invites each visitor to share their ideas about what they would do, if they were Banksy. Of course I participated in this cool idea too.
Can you guess, what my comment was?
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