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The world’s largest collection of work by Banksy, the celebrated pseudonymous street artist, is coming to the Mile High City this month—creating quite the dilemma for Denverites. The English provocateur known for adorning alleyways with witty political and social messages has condemned private exhibits that profit from his pieces. Then again, unless you plan on visiting London, the traveling exhibition, The Art of Banksy (April 14 to June 19 at the Denver Sports Castle), might be your only chance to view the work of a living master. What to do? We asked local arts and ethics experts for some moral guidance.
Former director of the Clyfford Still Museum; professor of the practice of art history and museum studies, University of Denver
“I can’t think of any reputable museum that would do an exhibition of a living artist against their wishes. Plus, I’m shocked the entertainment company would advertise the monetary value of all of these works.
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[Editor’s note: Toronto-based Starvox Entertainment publicly values the collection of 80-plus original paper works, purchased from private collectors, at $35 million.]
No professional arts organization would ever do something like that. However, assuming the works displayed are real, it would be really nice to see them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an authentic Banksy piece.”
Executive director, RedLine Contemporary Art Center
“It would be completely antithetical for us at RedLine to do something that would go against an artist’s wishes. In my opinion, it’s wrong to make money off of an artist’s work when that artist isn’t being appropriately compensated.”
Professor of philosophy, Colorado College
“I am not sure that an artist who makes public art has the right to declare that museums can’t exhibit his work. Attending the exhibit wouldn’t break any moral laws. In fact, I think witnessing Banksy’s artworks might do something to make viewers more sensitive and empathetic and more likely to be ethical persons.”
Jahna Rae church
Denver artist and muralist
“While I understand Banksy’s point of view, I do still believe there’s a benefit to having the show, in that it makes his art more accessible to those who wouldn’t normally be able to view it. So I don’t think the show should be boycotted, but I also wonder if there’s a way for the show to have a more positive impact, like funds going toward local art education programs.”
If we Decide Not to See Banksy, What Local Artists Should We Support Instead?
1. “Alicia Cardenas, a tattoo artist we lost in the December 27 shooting spree, was such a powerful force in the local art scene, and she was so focused on supporting women, nonbinary, and BIPOC artists. I’d encourage readers to visit her family’s GoFundMe page.” —Martorano
2. “There’s a local collage artist named Yazz who goes by @chattyancestors on Instagram. She makes pieces (like “Nature’s Time”) centered on Black women and does it in such a beautiful way.” —Rae Church
3. “Frances Dodd is a contemporary impressionist based out of Pueblo, and her color palette is incredibly bright and vivid.” —Riker