LONDON - As I walked around a crowded S|2 gallery, people were chuckling and nodding. The wayward graffiti artist has a homecoming in a dazzling gallery-space in the heart of Mayfair. Is he as magnetic as ever, off the street? Do we miss the more edgy, hard-hitting material that bounces off the wall? I don't have the answer.
His brand is at a peak and flocks are coming to view this major retrospective (Unauthorized!) curated by Steve Lazarides – Banksy's agent and wingman through the critical early years. The show brings together over 70 paintings, sculptures and prints that Lazarides considers seminal to Banksy's rise. Many have never been seen before.
My personal favorite is Banksus Militus Vandalus, which was illegally installed in the Natural History Museum in 2004, complete with spray can, sunglasses and rucksack for all of two hours before being removed by officials. Since then, it has only been seen once in public – at the legendary Banksy v Bristol Museum exhibition in 2009.
Of course this is all a far cry from the Banksy of the early years, and the irony of a Mayfair gallery is not lost on the crowds of viewers, but like an iconic figure that we have come to appreciate, Banksy can do no wrong. A must-see at your very earliest. Prepare to enjoy.
Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Curated by Steve Lazarides
11 June-25 July