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Everyone to the Never-Never Exhibition
In spite of the many traces the mysterious artist left in the streets of Paris

 

THE NON-EVENT AT THE MUSÉE DU GRAFFITI
REVEALS THE AMBIVALENCE, THE IRONY AND THE TASTE
FOR MOCKERY OF CONTEMPORARY ART

 

Here it is, the long-waited event all media announced. On June 1, Paris Musée du Graffiti opens a large exhibition on Banksy, the British artist who has brought Street Art under the international spotlight again. A crowd of people waits for the opening of the Passage du Ponceau impatiently. At 2:00 pm, someone hangs a sign to the closed gates: “Pas d’exposition Banksy“. No exhibition.  A second later, the museum announces, on its Facebook page, that the event will only be virtual. Everybody looks at their phones, reading one Facebook post after another, as if it were a poster: There is no use in looking for a physical place, the Musée du Graffiti closed yesterday, due to financial reasons. (…). Although they are illegal, graffiti allow us to reach many people. Their future is in the internet, and this is the reason for this 2.0 experience.” Then, a fundraising and a virtual exhibition follow. People feel lost and angry, and they go back home in disappointment. An exhibition without works, without a physical space, without a public. An exhibition without Banksy.

 

AT ALL EVENTS, THE ARTIST WHO HAS BEEN SCATTERING
HIS ILLEGAL WORKS OF ART AROUND THE WORLD
CONTINUES SPARKING GREAT INTEREST

 

And yet Banksy has left many traces of his presence in Paris, many of which have disappeared quite quickly. One of them, “The man and the dog“, which he painted next to the Sorbonne, has been deleted by a layer of paint and some election posters. The “Grieving figure“, which he painted on the door of the Bataclan as a homage to the attack victims, disappeared too: it was stolen a few weeks ago. As of today, only a few works are still scattered around the city, one of them being the “Mouse” near Centre Pompidou, a tribute to the pochoir art of May 1968.

What happened at the Musée du Graffiti reveals the ambivalence of most Contemporary Art. The represented subject is often the product of irony, mockery and sensationalism. Works are born from their underlying message and the controversy they spark off. So, it can happen that an artist whose poetics rests upon communication and who uses Instagram as his own gallery, is – on his turn – used by the web to perform an action whose purpose goes beyond the artistic message. Olivier Landes – one of the leading experts in urban art in France and the author of “Street Art Contexte(s)”, published by Editions Alternatives – points out that “When it was born, the Musée du Graffiti made a lot of promises, but eventually it turned out to be a bubble. It never really opened and organized an event of artistic communication that achieved opposite and counter-productive results.”

The mystery that surrounds Banksy has contributed to its dazzling fame. There is great interest in this artist, who scatters illegal works of art around the world. However, Paris dedicates two other exhibitions to Banksy: one opens at Espace Lafayette-Drouot on June 13 (strictly without the artist’s consent), and the other will soon open at Fluctuart, the new exhibition space on the Seine.

The public asks for Street Art to enter museums. And the presence of the faceless artist hovers over everything.

Paolo Magri

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