Buyer Beware: What You Need to Know About An Art Exhibition Featuring Works by Banksy

The international street artist and activist has not sanctioned the touring show that's coming to Pittsburgh.
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“Banksyland,” an art exhibit touring internationally, seems to be as elusive as the street artist it’s showcasing.

The touring 32-city show is exhibiting in Pittsburgh from March 31-April 2, claiming to feature 80 pieces and installations of original and studio Banksy works. Those interested in attending, however, should be aware that the exhibition is not authorized by Banksy, according to his official website, and there is little transparency about the organization running the event, One Thousand Ways. 

The local venue will be announced only one to two weeks before the opening. General admission tickets are $29 and VIP tickets are $59, which include a limited edition hand-screened exhibition poster, all-day access and an audio tour. The event has been heavily promoted on local social media platforms.

The England-based artist has garnered much attention due to his anti-authoritative graffiti and art in addition to the fact that he’s remained anonymous for the 30 years of his art career. Most of Banksy’s work addresses militarism, consumerism and capitalism and is often coupled with performance. In Banksy’s 2003 installation “Turf War,” he painted on the bodies of live pigs, and in 2006 he decorated a live elephant for his one-weekend Los Angeles warehouse installation “Barely Legal”. 

He sent fans and social media into a frenzy in late 2018 when Girl with Balloon (2006), a canvas version of one of Banksy’s most popular murals, appeared to partly self-destruct after selling at an auction for $1.4 million. The new shredded piece was confirmed to have a new name, “Love Is in the Bin,” and sold for $25 million in 2021 which set a new auction record for Banksy.  

Banksy tightly regulates the sale and authentication of his works through Pest Control Office. There, his team states that “Banksy is not involved or associated” with any exhibitions. 

Despite this, One Thousand Ways says that Banksy and Pest Control Office are aware of the tour. Britt Reyes, vice president of operations for “Banksyland,” told the Los Angeles Times that “Banksyland” offered 100% of the proceeds to the artist, which he declined. 

“Banksyland” also addresses this on its website stating, “Banksy’s representatives have declined to take a fee or royalties from this exhibition. However, Banksy has been compensated for many of the works shown in the exhibit, which were originally purchased from the artist’s representatives directly.” 

Numerous interview requests by Pittsburgh Magazine emailed to the “Banksyland” website went unanswered.

The show will include supposedly authenticated pieces, contributed by gallery owners and private collectors, Reyes told the LA Times, as well as replicated works.

The show’s curator Elle Miller told Oregon Artswatch’s Jennifer Rabin that she started One Thousand Ways as a nonprofit because she wanted to share art with those who might not have access to it.

“I just wanted people to see art because I came from a place where I didn’t have access to it growing up. And when I did get access to art, it changed my life,” Miller said to Rabin, adding that “my goal is to use the proceeds from every city to fund art grants in education in those cities.”

At the time of the interview, May 2022, Miller could not provide details regarding where the money would go, a clear philanthropic mission or how the organization was structured, financially nor internally. Now, it is an LLC, but Miller had said at least 10% of Banksyland profits would be given to arts organizations and various local nonprofits. However, currently the website does not make any suggestions of donating its profits.

Portland was the first city on this tour, and when Rabin interviewed Miller before it opened, she said she had no other locations secured. Since then, the exhibition has visited 14 cities claiming to have sold out on multiple dates with a sense of urgency for the Pittsburgh show stating, “High sell-out risk. Limited ticket availability.”

Though intended to increase access to Banksy works, the $29 ticket fee might discourage some visitors, but Reyes told the LA Times, “We always say if anyone is of hardship, any student, anyone who wants to come in the door and not pay, we always welcome them. Again, our mission is to make this art accessible.”

Categories: The 412