Unauthorized Banksy retrospective opens in Philadelphia


Although the artist did not endorse the show, Reyes said Banksy did not indicate any opposition.

“We want his work to be accessible. Over the past decade, we’ve seen his work become extremely privatized and commoditized, and that’s not his goal,” she said. “Our goal and intent was to support his reasons and really make this work accessible.”

Britt Reyes is the chief executive of Banksyland. Philadelphia is the sixth city to host the show. (Emma Lee/WHY)

Philadelphia is the sixth of 11 cities that One Thousand Ways visits in BanksyLand. The show is presented in an obscure location in Germantown: a warehouse at 219 West Rittenhouse Street normally used by the film production company Rittenhouse Filmworks.

Part of the walls are left raw brick to give an aesthetically appropriate home to rat signs, cardboard protest signs and life-size images of a policeman in full riot gear with a smiling cartoon face and two male London police officers. entwined in a kiss.

Banksy’s work protested the Gulf War in 2003. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The brick wall traces the evolution of Banksy. Not many details about his identity or biography are known, but it is known that he started out as a stencil tagger in the 1990s.

“That’s when we see Banksy showing up on the streets of Bristol, tagging street signs, electrical boxes, government signs,” Reyes said. “Often he would show up with a rat stencil, the work drawing inspiration from Blek le Rat of the early 1970s, a French stencil artist, the godfather of stencil art, who also used rats in his work.”

The brick wall work shows Banksy using his stencil work in more drastic ways, including masking a Nazi swastika that had been painted on a wall in Paris, with a pink floral design that appears to be painted over by the figure of a black girl.

Banksy painted a migrant girl on a wall in Paris in 2018. The work is reproduced at Banksyland. (Emma Lee/WHY)

The original is still on the wall in Paris, so this exhibition recreates the image with high-resolution, life-size photography. It is one of the few pieces in the series that are recreations of Banksy’s work.


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