To commemorate the Georgian Museum of Fine Art’s 5th year anniversary, it’s housing an exhibition showcasing works of the infamous street artist Banksy.
“Banksy: Birth of an Icon” opened on October 18 and will be available throughout the next four months. Banksy is an anonymous graffiti artist who began to rise in popularity in the 90s when his street art started to gain recognition. His work tends to resemble themes of anti-authoritarian statements and is often deemed controversial.
The leader and curator of the exhibition is Steve Lazarides, the former agent of Banksy who worked with him for more than 10 years. Lazarides started his career with many titles such as painter, builder, picture editor, etc., then he met Banksy and began photographing his artwork.
“This journey with Banksy encompasses a creative partnership that lasted nearly twelve years. A partnership with me as his photographer, driver, manager, and much more,” Lazarides wrote on the museum’s website. “I met Banksy as he started out as an unknown young graffiti artist from Bristol in 1997. This exhibition depicts Banksy’s path from the very outset. You will enjoy his oeuvre from two different angles: documentary photos taken by me—which will introduce you to his origins, meaning how it all started — and his originals to show how far Banksy has transcended the boundaries and how far ahead of time he was. Gradually, as you proceed through the exhibition, you will see for yourselves why the art world iconizes him and what makes this vandal a cult figure.”
Banksy is commonly recognized by his stencil-styled graffiti and messages usually containing relation to militarism, capitalism, war, or politics. He is most popularly known for his work which depicts a young girl in black and white who is reaching out to a red string balloon in the shape of a heart. This piece alone is replicated in many places around the world and sold on various pieces of merchandise, portraying Banksy as a “global brand.”
The majority of street work produced by Banksy can be found in the United Kingdom, however, his art started to seep its way from the street into galleries years ago. Exhibited in cities such as Melbourne, Chicago, Tel Aviv, and many others, the works of Banksy have debuted in several major cities around the world, finally making their way to Tbilisi.
Graffiti, something that was once perceived as a form of vandalism in most places, has become more acceptable over time and widely loved by people. When walking around the cities of Georgia it’s very common to find installations of street art, which is why the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts believes the Banksy exhibition will be a popular one.
“Over the five years of operation, the Museum of Fine Arts has hosted tens of exhibitions and gripping gatherings and over 100,000 visitors. Our goal has always been to support Georgian arts and to create yet another hub of Georgian arts at 7 Rustaveli Avenue,” the museum team wrote on their website. “Now our international-scope exhibition of Banksy’s works is an event we take with due diligence. This exhibition serves several purposes, such as, among others, to enable our local viewers to celebrate the museum’s 5th birthday by savoring an exclusive exhibition and meeting the legend. But on top of that, our museum steps up supporting Georgian street art. Besides, we are determined to put Tbilisi – with the help of this exhibition – on the world map of arts, posed in this way to attract greater tourist flows into the country.”
Since the museum wants to also portray and support Georgian street artists, “Banksy: Birth of an Icon” will not only showcase works from Banksy but also from Tbilisi locals. There will be one showroom in the exhibition curated by Elene Kapanadze that will feature works from Georgian artists Gagosha, Mishiko Sulakauri, Semichka, Koska, and SICK’N TIRED. These artists are currently creating content on the streets of Tbilisi, and they’ve been chosen for display due to the impact their work has on Georgian culture.
Lazarides believes that the worth of a piece of art is not determined by whether it’s hung in a museum, but by how many people know that piece of art.
“It’s hard to work out the yardstick, right, for who wins in the art world. The art world’s version of who wins is who sells their paintings for the most amount of money,” wrote Lazarides on Sky News, a British news channel. “I think my version of who wins is the artist who is most recognized and has their work in the most places. That is Banksy by a country mile. You know, there are cab drivers in Karachi who know who he is. There are fridge magnets, posters, and stickers. He’s probably the most famous artist of all time.” Wrote on the news website.
The exhibition will run until February 13, 2024.