Showcase of Banksy’s boundary-pushing artwork at Toronto’s Lighthouse ArtSpace

Jun 21, 2024 | Arts, Culture

The Art of Banksy exhibit at 1 Yonge St. displayed 161 pieces from private collectors who bought the work from the artist and wanted to share them with the public instead of being hidden in their homes or storage.

The private collectors believe the artist’s work should be seen, and this show is considered the world’s largest of Banksy’s works and is worth about $35 million. The tickets to the exhibit range from $34.99 to $99.99. The show runs until Sept. 2, 2024.

Banksy is a fictitious name to keep his real name from authorities in England and continues to stay anonymous.

This elusiveness around his identity with his boundary-pushing, often controversial artwork has made him famous worldwide. Over the last 20 years, he gained popularity from his illegal street artwork pieces.

“The canvases, prints, all the ‘proper’ art I’ve made doesn’t matter. Only the street work will last,” the artist said in Cut & Run, an exhibit that showcased Banksy’s stencil works from 1998 to 2023.

Taken at the entrance of the exhibit, displaying two reviews and two famous pieces of the artist.

Taken at the entrance of the exhibit, displaying two reviews and two famous pieces of the artist. Photo credit: Aaliya Fatima

He started out as a graffiti artist in Bristol, a city in southwestern England where street art and graffiti is illegal. His early work appeared in the early 1990s.

The small-time street artist turned millionaire started selling his work as his pieces gained popularity. The artist’s primary reason to create his art is to express his opinions and emotions to the public.

The exhibit at the Lighthouse Artspace featured Banksy’s popular works Girl with Balloon, Flower Thrower, Walled Off Hotel and his lesser-known pieces.

The artist’s work is famous for its social and political themes and is directed toward conveying anti-authoritative, anti-imperialistic, anti-government, and anti-capitalistic messages.

The exhibit also included prints, canvases, screen prints, sculptures, hand-drawn sketches, and limited-edition pieces, as well as video testimonials by a close associate of Banksy, who worked on prints of iconic images with the artist.

One of the pieces displayed was created for Greenpeace in 2002. He was commissioned by environmental activists for its Save or Delete campaign, which highlighted the problems of deforestation.

A 2003 piece titled Wrong War depicted signs of the protest of February 2003 in London against the planned invasion of Iraq.

Art enthusiast Park Ayoung said she found Banksy’s interpretation of the monarchs funny.

“It’s dark humour,” she said. “Throughout the exhibit, the art depicted communication. It’s him communicating to the world through his art with strong messages of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism.”

She said she was surprised that Banksy wasn’t endorsing the exhibit and that it was from private collectors.

“It doesn’t fit with the message that his art speaks of, like his pieces here of Consumerism crucified, Sales end and Tesco,” Ayoung said.

Jodi Mitchim, 54, said while she respects the art, some of them were rebellious for her taste.

“I’m here tagging along with my granddaughter and I think this kind of thing is liked more by her generation,” she said.

Mitchim said the only piece she liked was the 2009 work Banksy vs. Bristol Museum.

The artist’s famous 2003 piece titled Turf War is from the exhibition of the same name.

Banksy’s Mona Lisa (2002) is on display for a limited time. The piece is expected to be auctioned later this year and will likely be removed from public viewing.