What’s Banksy without a little controversy? This summer, two separate unauthorized tours highlighting the work of the anonymous England-based street artist and political activist will make their way through Seattle. The first, “Banksyland,” comes to town June 3-16 at AXIS Pioneer Square on the heels of a postponed second hiatus and concerns surrounding its debut.
With over 80 works highlighting Banksy’s nearly 30-year career, “Banksyland” serves as a retrospective, featuring photographs, large-scale image installations and other examinations of Banksy’s works from around the world. alongside salvaged street art. The exhibition will also include immersive video exhibits and video installations like the one highlighting the story around the “Louise Michel”, which saw Banksy buy a former French navy boat to help African refugees cross the Mediterranean.
And thanks to a network of private collectors who have reached out, curator Elle Miller said, the exhibit’s collection also includes authenticated studio works.
“I’ve found that in general art collectors are really passionate about art and they want it to be shared,” Miller said.
Miller’s exhibit didn’t have the easiest trip to Seattle. Seattle was originally meant to be the third leg of the “Banksyland” tour, following a start in Portland and a second leg in Hawaii. Due to shipping complications, Miller said the Hawaii stop had to be pushed back.
Although the exhibit left Portland with its fair share of praise – Shannon Daehnke of Portland Monthly noted that “you’ll definitely learn something you didn’t know about Banksy before” – it was also met with skepticism. After all, it’s kind of ironic to pay around $30 or more ($59 or more for VIP access, both on banksyland.com) to see the work of an artist who tried to shred his art after it was sold. at auction in 2018. (Although perhaps no more ironic than this now partially shredded work sold 18 times as much in 2021.)
Questions around the money of it all have been heightened by a report from Oregon ArtsWatch, which insisted on some obscurity surrounding One Thousand Ways, a company Miller set up earlier this year to launch the ‘Banksyland’ show. and now comprised of four full-time employees located around the world. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Miller called “Banksyland” a passion project, having grown up without much access to the arts before moving to Los Angeles and studying art. She was inspired by the way Banksy uses fame and money to do good in the world, and sought to bring her work to cities that don’t usually have access to see Banksy’s work in person.
Originally, Miller referred to One Thousand Ways as a non-profit organization, with the aim of donating a portion of the show’s proceeds to arts organizations, including Americans for the Arts, whose logo appears on the “Banksyland” website.
“It was a sincere desire,” Miller said. “I was advised at this point to form an LLC due to the complications of running a non-profit organization.”
Although he strays from One Thousand Ways’ vision of being a non-profit organization, Miller said that at least 10% of “Banksyland” profits will be donated to arts organizations. There’s a call to action to support Americans for the Arts’ mission with an additional $5 that ticket buyers can add to their purchase. A spokesperson for Americans for the Arts said the organization had no relationship with “Banksyland”. And Miller acknowledged that she and Americans for the Arts have yet to be in touch, but she still intends to donate some to the nonprofit aimed at cultivating and advancing the arts across the country.
Miller also said a portion of ticket sales will be donated to local non-profit organizations along the tour stops. For Portland, she said, One Thousand Ways donates to the Children’s Healing Art Project, Parrott Creek and the Portland Regional Council of Arts and Culture. She said she was still investigating nonprofits in Seattle and had not yet determined which local organizations would receive donations.
Although a rocky start for One Thousand Ways and “Banksyland,” Miller said she hopes the stops in the Pacific Northwest will allow the organization to gain sea legs as the company still works to finalize the sites for the rest of his tour. In the future, Miller said she hopes One Thousand Ways will be able to produce more shows like this and continue to bring the art to people around the world.
“Seeing the art in person is such a special experience,” Miller said. “It’s like seeing your favorite artist live, like going to the theatre. There’s just something you get when you see the art in person that you don’t necessarily get when you look at it in a book or explore it on the internet.
So far, little is known about Banksy’s second exhibition coming to town. For the North American debut of “The Art of Banksy: Without Limits” in Atlanta, exhibit designer Guillermo S. Quintana told ARTS ATL that the exhibit featuring a mix of original Banksy artwork , prints, sculptures and recreations by street artists is “totally different” in every city.
“This exhibit recreates the real-life feeling of standing in front of Banksy murals on the streets of London or New York,” the designer told ARTS ATL in September.
“The Art of Banksy: Without Limits,” which has toured Europe and Australia, is set to open in July at the Federal Reserve Building at 1015 Second Ave., Seattle, with tickets set to be released Thursday at artofbanksy.com . Attempts to contact the organizers with the exhibition were unsuccessful.