Banksy at Vanina Holasek
You've got to give them credit for trying. Perhaps the world's most famous street-artist, Banksy has long been a personal favorite of mine—I think he's clever and creative, plucky and genuine, and I find his work to be enormously appealing, both in content and visual style—and was thrilled to stumble across a couple of his pieces on the streets of his native London a couple of years ago.
But Banksy on paper, framed behind glass? Banksy for sale... and, by the way, for astonishing amounts of money? In no way do I begrudge the guy his success, but wouldn't his stuff lose all of its impact in a gallery setting? Well, mostly... yes, in fact it does. Not that the Vanina Holasek gallery show isn't worth seeing—even if you're not a fan, there's enough original ideas, well executed, to recommend it—but, maybe more than anything, it certainly did make me re-appreciate the miracle of last December's Wooster on Spring show.
In some ways, the narrow, stand-alone, three-story townhouse of Vanina Holasek is the perfect gallery for such a show, and everyone worked mighty hard to create an atmosphere that at least somewhat evokes (however implausibly) the grit and spontaneity of the street, or a squat. Banksy's mascot rubber rats are everywhere, for example, and there's lots of police tape and paint splatters and the like. Problem is, because they also wanted to sell the stuff, it's not like Banksy could just go in and tag the walls (again, HUGE re-appreciation of the Wooster on Spring show!)
Anyway, there are many of the artist's greatest hits here, most of which I love, all packed into the gallery's three stories, and it was definitely a pleasure to see these pieces "live", even in print form. In the end, I think Banksy and Vanina Holasek did a fine job with an extremely difficult assignment. And even if it doesn't entirely work, well, heck, it's better than nothing.
Banksy Does New York runs through December 29. Vanina Holasek is located at 502 West 27th Street, just off of 10th Avenue. If you can't afford several hundred thousand dollars for a signed piece, they are also selling $50 T-shirts and $55 catalogs. My advice? Get Wall and Piece instead, available in lots of places for under $30. It's written by Banksy and filled with hundreds of great images of his stuff out in the world.