Banksy. The Art Of Protest at Mudec museum, Milan

Banksy. The Art Of Protest at Mudec museum, Milan

The exhibition curated by Gianni Mercurio, opens with an historical introduction. A quote on the Situationist movement of the ’50s and ’60s, in the artistic avant-gardes of the ‘900 up to the hommage to the French May in 1968. In this part, it talks about the street art –  born as a copyleft in the 80s – from the ephemeral existence of the same works on the wall.

The first works by Banksy are some limited edition serigraphs. From private collections, others from the Butterfly Art news Collection and from Lilley fine art trader. The original single copy works belong to the “Artificial” gallery in Antwerp. About 80 works are exhibited including paintings, numbered prints (limited editions by the artist), accompanied by objects, photographs and videos, about 60 covers of vinyl and music CDs designed by him and about forty memorabilia (lithographs, stickers, prints, magazines, fanzines, promotional flyers). Banksy carries on the sense of a counterculture. In the street (as many writers before him), he finds the ideal place and moves in concrete opposition to the mass media cultural hegemony of television, cinema, advertising and radio.

The first and only work on display detached from a wall is from 2002. The exhibitions dedicated to Banksy are not authorized by the author, as the exhibited works are often the result of market speculation, often on the skin of weaker subjects, such as the Palestinians.  Or excluded from society, as in the case of the sub-proletarian neighborhoods of New York. In this sense, the works displayed at Mudec are presented in an discreet and respectful manner. Moreover, the artist’s themes are highlighted: the control, the overturning of the bourgeois stereotype and the innate security that it raises, childhood denied … A short circuit that is created through the insertion, in simple contexts, of provocative elements. Such as the old English woman who sew T-shirts with Punk lettering with their five o’clock tea on the table.Banksy has always been very attentive and active in contemporary politics.

For the English artist, religion, war industry, exploitation of the territory, are elements belongs from the same logic of war and some exposed works remind us this clear position, as happens with the serigraphs that mock the wrong war in Iraq and British intervention in the conflict.In this initial section there are the most iconic works: the girl who embraces the bomb, Ronald MacDonald and Mickey mouse who accompany the “famous image”, winner of the Pulitzer Prize of the Vietnamese girl bombed with Napalm. Moreover the helicopter with the pink bow and the aircraft carrier with written applause as if the war were nothing but a bloody reality show. The children often represented in the works are the disappointed innocence, but also a difficult future to imagine.

Exhibited there are his topic characters, those that accompany him from the beginning of his career: the rat, the invisible animal that lives in urban suburbs, in the underground dumps. The uncomfortable and repulsive being that moves in the shadow becomes a symbol of the street artist. And the monkey, symbol on one side of the ideocracy in power but on the other hand also of a power (I think of the Monkey in the form of the Queen of England) that perpetrates itself without any use. Another space is dedicated to the world of consumerism and its icons. Madonne nursing babies from contaminated bottles, shopping carts in the middle of the savannah dialogue with Kate Moss as the Marilyn of Warhol, while the soup Campbell is now replaced with the less expensive Tesco one.

The section on music is also pleasant. Some artist’s official collaborations with music labels (and with Blur), up to the pop-cult citations of “pulp fiction” or the Keith Haring’s dog on a leash in the “Choose your weapon” series of 2005. A video helps to get deeper into the world of Banksy, in his themes, through interviews past exhibitions, the story of the “Dismaland” amusement park. The exhibition doesn’t present the Banksy’s works  that elsewhere have created controversy, as mentioned above. I think that it can be an exhibition that respects the vision of the world that he wants to tell us, ignoring this increasingly aggressive contemporary market, whose dynamics emerge very well from the “Banksy does New York” docufilm for sale online and at the museum bookstore.

The final section includes a series of memorabilia and a small area dedicated to “The Wallet off Hotel”, the hotel born in Bethlehem in 2017 on an artist’s idea. Also known as the hotel with “the worst view in the world” on the wall of shame wanted by Israel to further isolate the Palestinian territories. With this hotel – made to set up and decorate by some friends and by Banksy himself – he wanted to focus on a historical. Banksy is among the greatest contemporary artists, with a focus on the problems of our life in the world. Wars, exploitation, immigration, his artwork never goes away from current issues that concern each of us, using a delicate but profound language, incisive but at first glance easy, fun, iconic that speaks to the common sense of our contemporary.

I was very thoughtful before visiting this exhibition. I follow Banksy from many years and with Juliet we were the first to publish an article in Italy about the artist from Bristol. Even with some reservations – given that often and willingly the artist does not follow, nor approves, nor supports the monographs dedicated to him – I want to invite you to visit the exhibit (costs 14 euros), because it has the serious goal is to make us know this brilliant artist. I would only ask the City of Milan for an important reflection on the situation that if you earn from street art exhibitions, it would be very cute from your side to stop arresting and prosecuting street artists in the city.

Alessia Locatelli


Banksy, Love Is In the Air (Flower Thrower), 2003 Limited edition screenprint 50 x 70 cm Butterfly Art News Collection  Credito fotografico: Butterfly Art News Collection

Banksy, Donut Chocolate, 2009, cm 56 x 76, Serigrafia su carta, Collezione privata Milano Credito fotografico: © Photo Marta Carenzi

Banksy, Girl with Red Balloon, 2004, Limited edition screenprint, 66 x 50 cm, Butterfly Art News Collection, Credito fotografico: Butterfly Art News Collection

Banksy, Rat and Heart, 2015, cm 52,5 x 57,58, pittura a spray e emulsione su tela, Collocazione: Artificial Gallery, Antwerp, Credito fotografico: © Artificial Gallery, Antwerp


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