Poland’s first ever Banksy exhibition opens in Warsaw
Poland’s cultural life has taken its first tentative steps towards recovery with the opening of a Banksy exhibition in Warsaw.
Titled “The Art of Banksy. Without Limits”, the exhibition is the first large-scale presentation of the artist’s works ever to be held in Poland.
“I’ve not slept in about 28-hours,” says the curator, Guillermo S. Quintana, “so I honestly can’t think exactly how many originals there are, but I would say something like seventeen or eighteen.
“Obviously,” he continues, “we’d love to have had more to show the Polish public, but the insurance is just crazy – we would have had to have tripled the admission price.”
Hosted inside the post-industrial confines of the former Koneser vodka factory in Warsaw’s gritty Praga suburb, the exhibition nonetheless manages to capture the world according to Banksy in enthralling fashion.
Presented through a series of giant installations, authorized replicas of some of his better-known works include “No Future”, a 2010 wall painting that was accidentally painted over in Southampton just a week after its discovery.
Others, meanwhile, include “The Girl With The Pierced Eardrum” found in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol. Arguably, however, most prominent is a recreation of the entrance to the Disney-inspired “Dismaland Bemusement Park”, a temporary art project that took root in the down-at-heel seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare in the summer of 2015.
Fringed by several genuine artefacts from this era, Quintana bristles with pride when talking about this zone.
“As a curator I hate cut-and-paste formulas,” he tells TFN. “That’s why I do something new with each exhibition I hold; as such, this is the first time I’ve presented Dismaland. I strive to make every exhibition unique, so even if you’ve been to previous ones in Germany or Hungary or wherever else, there’ll still be things you won’t have seen before."
Attracting nearly a million visitors since this roadshow first debuted in 2015, the appeal is understandable.
With his true identity still masked in secrecy, no artist has done more in recent times to fascinate, compel and inspire the global public. Known to have been born in Bristol in 1974, and a proud bi-product of the city’s thriving underground arts scene, his works today command huge fees and continue to make headlines whenever – and wherever – they appear.
“He was the first street artist to really cross into contemporary art,” says Quintana, “and although the exhibition encourages people to see things through the lens of Banksy, I really hope when people leave it is into their own world of ideas.
“You don’t need to like everything here,” adds Quintana, “but what I want is for people to return to being kids – to be curious. Curiosity, after all, opens many doors – including doors to happiness. That’s my message I think, ‘be a child, be human, feel connected’.”
This much is easy, particularly when standing face-to-face with striking originals such as Rescue Boat, a 2019 painting depicting a refugee vessel funded by the artist.
Often provocative in its content, the exhibition could have been born for the times with Banksy’s inverted ironies, scathing assessment of consumerist culture and dystopian vision rhyming in rhythm with the paranoid realities of our world today.
But while the message in many of the works may seem obvious, the devil lies in the detail and it is this chance to view Banksy’s oeuvre up close and personal that is ultimately the most rewarding.
“Focus,” says Quintana. “It’s these details that elevate his work to the realm of magnificent.
“Just look at these original bank notes, for example. Take a moment to read them and you’ll find his little private jokes – instead of ‘In God We Trust’, you’ll instead find Banksy’s interpretation: ‘Trust No-one’.
“There are secrets everywhere,” he concludes, “you just have to find them.”