The Venice Biennale is in full swing having attracted artists and art-lovers from around the world to view works by the biggest and best names in the art world. With pavilions from more than 80 countries and a massive, multi-artist exhibition, it’s like a snapshot of the world today through art and it carries a lot of clout. One artist, though, has noticeably not been invited to the Biennale and yesterday, he made it a point to go whether or not they invited him…sort of.
The artist? Banksy. One of today’s most recognized, copied, and controversial street artists whose stencil murals have sprung up overnight making little-known places art destinations and has shocked the art market by shredding his own artwork, Girl with Balloon, when it sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s. And, yet, despite his renowned status he has never been invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. This year, though, Banksy kind of changed that.
On his Instagram feed, a minute-long video popped up on May 22nd showing scenes of the ‘City of Water’ with the soft sound of an accordion playing in the background. An artist, whose face is never shown, sets up their stall alongside the stalls of other Venetian artists selling their watercolour and oil paintings of the city. This stall, bearing the name ‘Venice in Oil,’ seems to pique the interest of passersby as we’re finally shown the finished product: a series of nine paintings that, when put together, create a Venetian cityscape with the addition of a massive cruise ship blocking most of the sights. The artist, presumably Banksy himself, sits in a chair to the right of the screen reading a strategically placed newspaper. Eventually, the police show up and force the artist to take down their stall saying ‘you have to go away, you can’t stay here,’ as the camera pans up ironically showing a cruise liner in the Venetian harbour. Accompanying the video are a few lines stating:
‘Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale.
Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.’
The video has sense received more than 2.2 million views and offers the artist’s comment on the exclusive nature of the Biennale alongside his commentary on tourism in the city that attracts millions every year. The tourism industry is a recurring issue for the city as it drives the economy but strains the city’s infrastructure and has forced out locals.
In addition to Banksy’s pseudo-party crashing, the artist has officially laid claim via Instagram to a painting of a child holding a pink flare that appeared above on the Venice’s canals.
This isn’t the only controversial boat-based work that has made an appearance at this year’s Biennale, either. Barca Nostra, the shipwreck that sunk in 2015 killing hundreds of migrants, is on display at the Venice Arsenale. Only a couple of weeks into the show, the project spearheaded by Christoph Büchel has proved itself to be a provocative addition to the Biennale.
While Banksy isn’t around for the duration of the Venice Biennale, it will run through November 14th.
Edited May 24th: Banksy has now claimed the stencil mural which this article did not originally attribute to the artist.