​’The Art of Banksy’ is an illicit glimpse of the elusive talent at SF’s Palace of Fine Arts

Known for his satirical, anti-establishment street art, Banksy has managed to keep his identity a secret despite his worldwide following. While little is known about the artist, a new traveling exhibition provides some insight into his brilliant mind and artistic evolution.

The art of Banksy— the largest traveling collection of authentic Banksy art to date — has landed at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts with more than 100 works of art sourced from private collectors around the world. It’s a chance to check out some of the artist’s most famous pieces, such as ‘Flower Thrower’, ‘Rude Copper’ and the iconic ‘Girl With Balloon’, but the real prize may well be the chance to see some of the lesser-known creations by Banksy to see. that would otherwise have remained hidden from the public.


‘Pulp Fiction’ at ‘The Art of Banksy’.(Kyle Flubacker)

Without Banksy’s permission – he hasn’t commented on it that much, but are you even surprised? – the experience begins with a display of his “Welcome Mat”, stitched together with material from life jackets found on beaches in the Mediterranean. The irony of a work of art you can wipe your dirty feet on sets the tone for the next collection.

The exhibition space is very dimly lit, which fits the theme of mystery. It’s like getting an exclusive glimpse of something usually kept secret. In addition to the art, Banksy quotes pop out of plain black or white walls; the accompanying audio tour provides additional commentary and anecdotes.

Flowing in chronological order, the pieces touch on several milestones in Banksy’s career: the reason he started using stencils (there was police and a shelter under a garbage truck); that time he released 200 live rats at an art exhibition in London; his cultural collaborations, all the people he pisses off, and more. His intelligence and humor come into its own.

Banksy the man is a paradox, full of contradictions and deceit. He is simultaneously counter-culture and mainstream, a critic of capitalism whose art is sold for millions of dollars to wealthy collectors. He works with Greenpeace and paints live animals to lounge around an art exhibition. He is both passionate and apathetic about societal change. Our better judgment tells us that we are mocked along with the rest, yet we admire the work and its maker.

In a society that pursues fame, Banksy is an anonymous influencer. As one quote goes, “No one ever listened to me until they didn’t know who I was.” He keeps us on our toes and he knows exactly how to do it.

// The art of Banksy is open until February 27, 2022, tickets ($40-$55/adults, $30/kids) are available at banksyexhibit.com.

‘Flower Thrower’ at ‘The Art of Banksy’.(Kyle Flubacker)

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