A traveling exhibit of artwork from the famously elusive street artist Banksy will open in DC on June 23. Here’s everything we know about “The Art of Banksy: The Unauthorized Collection.”
It’s being held in an abandoned Bed Bath & Beyond in Chinatown
The shuttered Bed Bath & Beyond in Gallery Place (709 Seventh St., NW), which has remained empty since its doors closed in 2020 (a decision made pre-pandemic), will soon be filled with more than a hundred Banksy works. “It kind of spoke to us to a certain extent,” says Vicente Fusco, a co-producer of the exhibit, about the venue.
Banksy probably hates it
Banksy is a known anti-capitalist, even though his pieces sell for millions and the artworks exhibited at “The Art of Banksy” might not otherwise be available to the public. In 2013, Banksy called commercial success “a mark of failure for a graffiti artist.” The artist’s website, Pest Control, even warns viewers that exhibitions like this one “are nothing like a genuine Banksy show” and “might be crap.” Fusco said everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and ultimately, the exhibit has been received well by the public. “At the end of the day, we believe art is meant to be enjoyed and seen by the public, so we’re trying to bring an opportunity,” Fusco said.
Reviews from past shows in other cities have been mixed
A lot of reviewers seem as skeptical as the artist, describing the show as corporate commodification. While a reviewer in Boston called the exhibit a “rare treat, even if it raises questions,” one reviewer in Chicago called it “little more than an exercise in the sort of opportunistic capitalism and vapid culture that Banksy’s graffiti might have lampooned.” Another reviewer in San Francisco called it “pure bourgeois comfort food.”
It’s all from private collections
Starvox Entertainment, who is organizing the exhibition, assures potential Banksy fans on its website that no one took a chisel to a public mural—every piece is from private collectors. The exhibition will hold over $35 million of authentic Banksy pieces—including a print of “Girl With Balloon,” a piece that sold for $1.4 million at an auction before it promptly shredded itself.
The exhibit is recruiting social media influencers
If you have more than 2,000 followers on social media, the “Art of Banksy” organizers say you have a chance at “fantastic freebies” if you sign up to promote the exhibition. It’s unclear what might go into your swag bag. Washingtonian was unable to find any evidence of “Art of Banksy” influencer promotion on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter ahead of the exhibition’s opening.
Get tickets for “The Art of Banksy” starting at $35 here.
Correction: This post originally incorrectly said that the company Starvox Entertainment, which organized the Banksy show, also put on the Immersive Van Gogh experience in DC. Starvox put on an Immersive Van Gogh experience in Chicago and San Francisco, separate from the DC experience.