An unauthorized Banksyland exhibit opens in Houston – 71Bait

“Banksyland,” the unauthorized but highly anticipated traveling exhibit, was still under construction at its new Houston home: The Space HTX, adjacent to Cafe Tout Suite in EaDo, as of Friday morning. The exhibition, which opened on Friday afternoon, will last until August 20th.

Tickets for the art experience sold like hotcakes, despite the then-undisclosed location of Banksyland.

“This room was recommended to us by someone who saw the show in Austin,” says general manager Britt Reyes. Other venues she considered fell through. “One place wanted $15,000 for air conditioning. We also needed a loading dock and parking lot,” she said. That

But the Space HTX ticked all the right boxes.

The exterior and interior of the building has an industrial vibe. Exposed brick and electrical fixtures with crystal chandeliers. With just 5,000 square feet to work with, “Banksyland” Houston is the smallest pop-up on the 22-city tour, but the flow feels right. The U-shaped circuit of authenticated works and replica installations is partially obscured by black curtains. From the outside, the studio-style venue is something of a fishbowl, Reyes said. They will cover the windows to protect some of the show’s secrets.

Banksyland is a confident operation. Though much has been made of its unauthorized nature, Reyes and her team don’t pay much attention to the controversy.

‘Banksyland’

When: until August 20th

Where: The Space HTX, 2005 trading

Details: $22 and up; banksyland.com. The show is sold out.


Banksy, the English street artist and political activist, is controversial. His identity and real name remain unknown.

A wall of Banksy quotes spray-painted on black canvas lines a wall at the entrance to Banksyland. One reads: “No one ever listened to me until they knew who I am.”

“Nothing is more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place,” says another.

“This is where people start tearing up,” Reyes said, pointing to the far right corner. “‘When you get tired, learn to rest and not stop’ is especially poignant after the past few years.”

In Austin, she guided visitors through more than 80 private tours. At least four have been curated for visually impaired ticket holders. But Houston, VIPs will have to make do with pre-recorded audio.

Banksyland features a mix of authenticated loans from private collectors and replica installations. There is a gallery wall covered in authentic Banksy pieces. Other vignettes – including a quartet of sketches sculpted into 3D by a collaboration between Banksy and Brandalism by Hong Kong’s Dope Gallery – are more of a gray area.

“Those have more of the blessing of Banksy’s press control,” Reyes said.

It refers to a trio of PR, marketing and legal attorneys set up by the artist to review requests and protect Banksy’s identity.

Through these channels, Banksyland has been able to source works such as Devolved Parliament (2009) and reprint them to scale. The huge oil-on-canvas painting of chimpanzees debating the House of Commons shares what Reyes calls the “British corner” with a punk rock reinterpretation of Winston Churchill in “Turf War” (2003) and “Slave Labour” (2012). ) depicting a little boy sewing a Union Jack textile.

Nearby is Di-Faced Tenners (2004), a metal briefcase filled with a £10 note featuring Princess Diana on one side and Charles Darwin on the other.

“The most powerful and strongest in our society often knock out our weakest,” Reyes said. “Banksy’s idea was to discreetly give away £1million to highlight Britain’s obsession with the royal family. Unfortunately, the government considered this plan fake, not art.”

The artist’s original project was canceled. After all, he may have had the last laugh when the British Museum acquired some of the wrong currency in 2019.

“He’s calling on government and individuals, and yet we yearn for more,” Reyes said.

Two of the main galleries are united in a commentary on “Barely Legal” (2006). For his first US exhibition, Banksy painted a 38-year-old elephant named Tai to match a pink and gold wallpaper background. The Los Angeles reception drew celebrities – including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – into a living room with Tai (aka the elephant in the room), who represents world poverty. Criticism from animal activists drew attention to Banksy’s suggestion that the collective wealth of the event’s attendees alone could solve the world’s clean water crisis.

Tai isn’t exactly to scale here, despite being a key moment on social media. Team members led by Reyes will receive the angles of the structure just ahead of Friday’s opening. Banksyland’s has sold out, although the experience’s run in Houston has been extended due to demand.

“Banksyland” is not a museum show. House music pulsates at low levels during business hours. And the only light inside the Space HTX is the glow of the chandelier overhead.

However, Banksy’s rebellious spirit is everywhere. A photograph of MV Louis Michel, the former French naval boat purchased with artist proceeds and adapted to conduct search and rescue operations, fills an unassuming corner. Banksy reportedly used funds from the sale of his work on the migrant crisis to restore and rename the ship. Its namesake is a woman who enabled refugees to safely cross the Mediterranean Sea.

A welcome mat below the framed photo of the boat consists of orange life jackets that are pulled out of the water. Look closely to spot a misplaced wooden board – underneath is a “Girl with a Pink Balloon”. The tiny riff on Banksy’s most famous stencil, Girl with Balloon (2002), is directly across from the gallery hall. The latter is one of Banksyland’s smallest works and has been authenticated by a private collector, Reyes said.

If you have tickets, don’t forget to look up – there’s an Easter egg hiding in the left corner of the ceiling. And follow the red wire for an unauthorized surprise that would likely earn Banksy’s seal of approval.

amber.elliott@chron.com

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