There’s lots of things we English do well.
Not talking about our feelings, selectively remembering the favourable parts of our checkered history, so on and so forth. But it’s in hypocrisy that we really come into our own. If you go through the list of those who’ve had the honour of kneeling in front of the Queen (or one of her cronies) and being tapped on the shoulders with a sabre, you’ll find a fair number of those in years gone by would’ve been more likely to have their heads on spikes at Traitor’s Gate than arising “Sir” anything. The most famous of which being members of the Beatles and the Stones. Forgotten are the drugs, the sex, the outrage and the police busting down their doors trying to frame and subsequently lock them up. Replaced instead by the quintessentially British, “we always thought they’d do well,” attitude. Banksy’s someone who certainly falls into that category, and in a sign that he’s over the hump, he’s got a greatest hits exhibition opening today in London.
The concept of a graffiti artist emerging (or not, considering that Banksy’s still anonymous) as one of the most famous, beloved and prolific artists of the modern age is absolutely hilarious when you consider that graffiti’s still illegal in the UK. And most other places as well. But that’s the beauty of anonymity—the more controversial he’s been over the years, the more publicity he’s received, and so’s grown the mystique. The fact that he’s managed to monetise the whole operation without revealing his identity is perhaps the greatest joke of all, and I’m sure he has a right laugh about it when he shouts every one a pint at The Bell in Stokes Croft.
Banksy, Greatest Hits: 2002-2008 is showing at the Lazinc Sackville gallery, and it’s the only place in the country where you can see a collection of the artist’s work all in the same place. Which is kind of a given considering most of it’s on the side of buildings. The exhibition has been curated by Steve Lazarides who’s been apart of Banksy’s entourage—starting off as his photographer and graduating to his agent—since the 90s. “When I first met this scruffy, grumpy guy back in 1997 I would have never guessed that 20 years on he would be the most famous artist of his generation, and that his work would be studied on school curriculums,” Lazarides has famously said.
The exhibition has been pulled together from all sources and features stencilled canvases, paintings and limited edition prints, some of which have never been shown before. So if you’re in Londinium you’d really be crazy to miss a cultural event this potent. Not to mention that in the current political climate, Banksy’s work bites as hard as ever. Get yourself down to Mayfair, have a wander and ponder this: Is there a chance of the artist ever joining the ranks of Jagger and co. and arising Sir Banksy? Guess they’d have to work out who he is first.