Banksy: Genius or Vandal is due to arrive in Hong Kong this December, marking the exhibition’s first venture into Asia following shows in Moscow, Madrid, St. Petersburg and Lisbon. The exhibition, which has attracted over 700,000 visitors in its previous locations, features over 70 of the artist’s provocative pieces, including an immersive audio-video installation that seeks to dismantle Banksy’s mysterious façade.
As with all other exhibitions dedicated to Banksy, this exhibition remains unauthorised by the artist, preserving his famed anonymity and refusal to succumb to the rules and regulations of the system.
The street artist is known for his outspoken protest art and subversive use of humour to attract and intrigue viewers. Merging and manipulating well-known artworks or figures with comical, outspoken and occasionally lewd twists, the artist takes an unfiltered approach in his creation process sparing not even the Queen. Although superficially amusing and entertaining, a closer analysis of Banksy’s work shows how he highlights acute problems within society through the guise of shock-factor and comedy.
A prime example of this is reflected in Napalm (Can’t Beat That Feeling), on show at the exhibition this December. Banksy’s work is a rendition of a heart-breaking photograph from the Vietnam War titled The Terror of War, taken in 1972 by Nick Ut. The original image depicts Vietnamese children fleeing from a napalm blast that struck their village, centred around a young naked Vietnamese girl, seen in Banksy’s version holding hands with Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. This jarring juxtaposition between the clearly distressed child with two famously happy and beaming figures is further intensified by their apparent lack of concern for her terror. The artwork highlights issues of commercialism and consumerism in America, while simultaneously bringing to light socio-political issues of violence, poverty and injustice.
The artist is also known for his elaborate hoaxes and hijinks. Just last year, Banksy pulled his most controversial stunt – shredding the infamous Girl With Balloon after it had sold at a Sotheby’s auction in London for US$1.37 million. He later posted the unprecedented manoeuvre on his instagram page, quoting Picasso, “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Those wishing they’d had a chance to observe the now world-famous piece pre-shredding should worry not, for the silkscreen from the same series will be on view this December.
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Where: PORTAL 6311, 1/F, FTLife Tower, 18 Sheung Yuet Road, Kowloon Bay
When: 11:00 – 20:00, from 20 December 2019 to 1 March 2020
Ticketing: From HK$180, available here