© David John - Flickr: DavenJohn


Does London really need a street art museum?

Posted at 10:00 am, May 7, 2014 in Arts & Entertainment
Hell's Kitchen ©Instagram: Banksyny

Remember that spate of Banksy mural removals a few weeks ago? It was all ahead of a controversial auction where they’d be sold off to the highest bidders. Here’s what we said about it in our listing:

‘A collection of street art works by Banksy, removed from buildings, will be auctioned this week. The eight artworks include ‘Girl with a Red Balloon’, a piece so famous that no less a cultural heavyweight than Justin Bieber has it tattooed on his arm. They form the most expensive collection of the Bristolian’s work ‘ever assembled under one roof’ as the organisers say, before going under the hammer.’

Well the exhibition has been and gone and – a-hah! – THERE WAS NO AUCTION, do you see?! As organisers Sincura Arts Club explain, it was all an unfathomable mind game to promote interest in a hypothetical Street Art Museum. As the group explained on stealingbanksy.com:

‘We can now reveal the truths behind the show. STEALING BANKSY? was never created as a sale of street art, and in fact many of the pieces displayed were not actually available for sale. Furthermore, those artworks made available had strict caveats placed on them – that upon purchase they would be put back on public display and that the proceeds from any sale would benefit local charities.

As a company we were approached at the start of this project to see whether the world’s first Street Art Museum could be created in the heart of London. We believe strongly that street art is an important part of the modern day art movement and should be recognised as such. Established museums do not have budgets allocated for the preservation of such art and school curricula shun the subject.’

Allegedly Sincura is now collaborating with the Old London Underground Company, the organisation that keeps talking about buying abandoned tube stations and redeveloping them into various attractions, but in reality has never quite managed to do so (a situation not helped by TfL’s dawning realisation as to how much they can make from the property; TOLUC tried to raise £17 million to buy Brompton Road in 2011, but it was sold to an unnamed property developer for some £53 million this February).

So, would London benefit from a street art museum? Tony Baxter, director of Sincura, argued that ‘by taking these pieces off the streets, it means they’ll still exist in 100 years.’ And hey, there’s even a street art collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. But doesn’t stripping murals from public places and putting them inside galleries rather miss the point of, well, everything? Considering tickets to the real ‘Stealing Banksy?’ exhibition (prior to the fake auction) were a startling £17.50, one is reminded of the enterprising New Yorkers who charged the city’s aesthetes $20 to view the artist’s latest stencil:

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