IRONY, MEET ARTISTRY: Exhibit of anti-consumerist artist Banksy comes to Fashion Show
Josh Breski spent his birthday with Banksy.
The Long Beach, Calif. resident, freshly 46, was delighted to discover that his birthday-week visit to Las Vegas coincided with the opening of the Banksy: Genius or Vandal? exhibition inside Immersion Vegas, a new venue at Fashion Show mall.
“I’m a fan,” Breski said while exploring the 12,000-square-foot exhibition that features more than 70 works by the subversive British artist known for his graffiti murals. (And for famously shredding his “Girl with Balloon” painting immediately after it sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2018.) “He’s interesting and original.”
The unofficial (as in, not authorized by Banksy himself) exhibition, produced by EMS Entertainment, opened in late November. It includes paintings, photographs, 3D objects, video installations and other Banksy works from private collections. Stars of the show include Banksy’s “Rose Trap,” “Holocaust Lipstick” and the 700-pound “Stop Esso” mural. The exhibition also features a re-created Banksy studio — complete with an inanimate, hoodie-clad Banksy — and an interactive installation that offers a disturbing reminder of the prevalence of surveillance cameras.
More than 1 million people visited the exhibition during engagements in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Madrid and Lisbon, according to a November news release.
In announcing the Vegas run, Christoph Rahofer, president and CEO of EMS Entertainment, called Banksy “one of the most intriguing, iconic and influential individuals in the modern art world.”
The mysterious artist’s work is “controversial, thought-provoking, topical” and “a challenge to the system,” Rahofer said.
Contemporary politics, war and consumer culture are among Banksy’s favorite artistic targets. The exhibition features some of his anti-consumerism pieces — “Sale Ends” and “Flying Shopper” among them — in a venue within shouting distance of the nearest department store. That’s appropriate, given the fact that “ironic” could be Banksy’s middle name. (It could also be his first and last name. Who knows? Banksy’s true identity remains a secret.)
For example: A quote attributed to Banksy, stenciled on an exhibition wall, reads:
“We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime, we should all go shopping to console ourselves.” (Those who want to do just that need venture no farther than the adjoining, 3,000-square-foot gift shop.)
The collection’s shopping-mall home promises to introduce the artist to new audiences, judging from passing shoppers’ double-takes.
“What’s in here?” asked Albert Rivera, who took a detour on his way to the Apple store. Then, when told about Banksy: “Never heard of him.”
Intrigued after a sneak peek at a limited-edition “Girl with Balloon” print, Rivera promised to come back later to see the rest of the collection.
The exhibition should also draw plenty of Banksy fans, such as Breski.
Clad in a Parliament Funkadelic tee, flannel shirt and black Converse sneakers, the birthday boy said he’s drawn to the “rebelliousness” of Banksy’s work. And the exhibition seemed like a great way to spend a rainy Vegas afternoon.
Besides … “I was hung over,” he said, “and I thought I’d come here instead of drink.”
If you go: Banksy: Genius or Vandal? appears through April 5 inside Immersion Vegas on the first floor of Fashion Show mall. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $29; $15 for children 11 and under. For more information or to buy tickets online, visit https://immersion.vegas/visit/banksy/
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