CHICAGO – The Banksy rumors are true, an exhibit of Banksy works is coming to Chicago in July with tickets on sale Thursday morning.
“The Art of Banksy” will open July 1 in a yet-undisclosed location in the West Loop, according to an announcement Tuesday from presenter Starvox Entertainment, the same folks behind the current and popular “Immersive Van Gogh” in Old Town.
Like “Van Gogh,” the Banksy show will be a walk-through attraction, taking about 60 minutes. But unlike the digital projections in “Van Gogh,” Starvox promises all works will be Banksy originals, donated by collectors.
“This is a look into a world that most people never get a chance to see,” said Starvox president and CEO Corey Ross on Monday.
Banksy is the famous and famously anonymous street artist who’s graffiti-influenced stencil work has a political bent and has become iconic, though he’d probably hate the word, with images titled “Flower Thrower,” “Rude Copper” and “Girl with Balloon.” The roughly 80 pieces in the show will be canvasses, screen prints, sculptures and one-off pieces dating between 1997 and 2008.
How to put on a show of original street art without the original walls it was painted on? As Banksy’s work has gained attention, and value, over the decades, the artist has taken to creating artwork on canvas and other mediums that have been sold to collectors; 20 of those originals are in the show. The balance will be prints duplicating what was originally on walls; according to Ross, those duplications will be from Banksy himself, again sold to collectors. Ross places the current value of the show at more than $35 million.
“The Art of Banksy” has been seen elsewhere internationally, most recently in Toronto and in similar form in Miami; Starvox got involved in 2018 and a simultaneous Starvox show is upcoming for London in May. The show in Miami that opened in 2018 was credited to Steve Lazarides, a former Banksy agent and collaborator. After the Chicago show was teased over social media last week and reported in the Tribune, Lazarides contacted the Tribune to say he had no part in its creation. Ross said the current show is curated by Michel Boersma and has been reinvented since Miami.
Somewhat obviously, the show has also been put together without any input from Banksy himself.
Asked what he thought Banksy would think of “The Art of Banksy,” Ross acknowledged that the artist would have wanted artistic control. “But we think creating something apart from what the artist would have created also has value,” he said.
Asked if he thought Banksy would think the show was too commercial — it will, after all, have gift shop — Ross replied that “that’s a hard thing to say when you’re standing in a room with $35 million in artwork that he’s sold.”
Toronto-based Starvox picked Chicago — partnering with promoter Collectiv Presents — as the next destination due to the success with “Van Gogh” and previous theatrical productions the producer has brought here, including “Potted Potter.”
“Everything we do in Toronto has seemed to work well in Chicago,” he said.
Biggest difference in the show between the two cities? Security. Before the Toronto show first opened, it was robbed and a piece that was taken has not been recovered.
Tickets will go on sale 9 a.m. May 6 (starting at $39.99 for adults) for “The Art of Banksy,” running July 1 to Nov. 28 in Chicago in accordance with city and state COVID-19 guidelines; banksyexhibit.com.