At a large warehouse in northeast Minneapolis, visitors are invited to zigzag down a winding hallway, following a trail of red dots on the floor to a series of galleries. The walls are black, with sarcastic anti-capitalist quotes printed in white. There’s even a selfie-friendly photo shoot at the end.
On the heels of the ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ show, ‘The Art of Banksy’, a traveling exhibition of the work of the pseudonymous English street artist, activist and prankster.
The unauthorized exhibit, opened Thursday by the company behind “Van Gogh” in the same space in northeast Minneapolis, features around 100 Banksy canvases, screen prints, sculptures and one-of-a-kind pieces from private collections.
In total, the works are valued at over $35 million, says Starvox Entertainment.
It’s also not a cheap ticket – $35-$45 for adults, $30-$35 for children, depending on the day and time. It’s more than double the cost of a special exhibit at the otherwise free Minneapolis Institute of Art, while the Walker Art Center charges $15 for adults. And VIP/premium packages for the show are up to $100.
“We are not a museum,” said Starvox founder Corey Ross. “We’re not publicly funded, so there’s a cost to bringing these shows to town, and that’s reflected in the ticket price.”
Cultural workers in the Twin Cities have mixed feelings about these kinds of events. Northeast Minneapolis artist Amy Rice isn’t a fan, especially since “The Art of Banksy” opens just a week before the neighborhood’s popular Art-a-Whirl weekend.
“Banksy does not expressly endorse [of the show]. The exhibition takes place in the Northeast Arts District during Art-a-Whirl, North America’s largest art tour and our first real one in three years, at a time when the arts have been hit so hard.”
Others, however, see it as an opportunity to attract would-be art lovers to the northeast who don’t typically go to museums or galleries.
The traveling show, billed as “the biggest Banksy exhibit ever,” has appeared in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Phoenix and Nashville. It features many of his most recognizable works, including “Girl With Balloon,” a copy of which automatically shredded itself after it sold at auction for $1.4 million in 2018. (In Banksy’s true form, he explained that he had built a chipper into the frame in case it ever sold at auction.)
“I was watching an advertisement for [the show] the other day and I felt like I was watching an advertisement for a furniture company clearance sale—”Sunday Sunday Sunday!” — and in the end, quickly, it was like, ‘Not authorized by the artist,'” said Ginger Porcella, director of Franconia Sculpture Park.
“Cool, I mean: let’s do a show that the artist hasn’t even signed, let’s make a ton of money out of it, and don’t even pay the artist. … It’s not about art education or of public engagement. It’s strictly a for-profit business.”
Some artists fear the show will take away potential business from local artists with studios nearby.
“There’s a big difference between going to see an artist…at a show like that – where you’re fed some kind of entertainment – and coming to our open studios where we all live and work,” said Carmen Gutierrez. -Bolger, a former president of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), which stages Art-a-Whirl.
“It’s our bread and butter.”
To these criticisms, Ross of Starvox sees another answer.
“I believe the tide is rising. So the more we get people interested in the arts, and the more arts events there are, the more opportunities there will be for local artists,” he said. “I don’t think when a Broadway theater show comes to town it hurts the local theater scene in any way. I think it’s important for artists to see other artists.”
A pro-Banksy faction too
For all of Banksy’s anti-capitalist, anti-art market rhetoric, there is no outright opposition to the exhibition in the art community.
Photographer Nik Linde, who has a studio at Casket Arts in the North East, thinks the high admission price is “perhaps” hypocritical, but generally feels supportive of the show.
“I think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s not New York, so for people in Minnesota, I think the show is a good opportunity to see things like that.”
Other artists in the neighborhood see Banksy’s show as a way to drive traffic to the northeast.
“As I said of the ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ exhibit, I hope visitors to the Banksy exhibit will realize how close they are to a range of other artistic experiences in the neighborhood, especially during Art-A-Whirl weekend,” said Russ White, whose studio is also at Casket Arts.
Lighthouse Immersive, the company that organizes these art exhibitions in different cities – including an “Immersive Frida Kahlo” that hasn’t arrived here yet – recently joined NEMAA as a gallery member.
“Art-a-Whirl is 26 years old now,” said painter Susan Wagner, also a former NEMAA president. “A lot of businesses are more than happy to catch the wave of crowds coming to the North East, and we’ve never been able to control that. So it’s kind of the good with the bad. .”
When: Open Thursday to Monday.
Where: 1515 Central Av. NE., MPs.
Tickets: $30 to $100. banksyexhibit.com/minneapolis