Sapporo: Banksy Exhibit

Yes, you read that right. I’m talking about the Banksy of underground street art fame.

I had meant to type up this article while the exhibit was ongoing, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do so. I’m referencing this post based on my memories and the pictures I’d taken on that day. It’s good, though, because I’m looking at the artwork again and I’m reminded of how awesome an artist Banksy was.

From March to July, Sapporo held an exhibition of his art at the Higashi 1chome Theater, which used to be the site where the Shiki Theater Company held their musicals. Higashi 1chome no longer holds musical productions because those have moved to Hitaru, which is in located in the fairly new Sosei Square building.

This time around the theater held the Banksy exhibition entitled Banksy: Genius or Vandal?

Honestly, before going to the exhibit, all I knew about Banksy was that his images are usually pretty simple and they’re spray painted on walls. Most of the time, people miss them because he tries to be mysterious about when and where he creates his art. When people notice that the spray art is Banksy’s, it becomes a big deal and makes it onto the news.

A recreation of the artist’s studio

Even with that meager knowledge, I enjoyed myself immensely and spent the whole day at the exhibit. I went on a weekday in April, early in the morning, because that’s when it’s not too crowded. One of the things I hate about exhibits is being unable to thoroughly enjoy the artwork because people are blocking my view or we’re rushed to go through the entire collection within a certain amount of time.

This time, though, despite the pandemic, I was able to leisurely go through the various displays and enjoy the creative way they put together the original work. It was very well done, so hats off to the organizers of the event.

Banky’s art style is humorous but makes you really think about social issues. I love how there’s an explanation in Japanese and in English about the particular controversy he addresses in the art. He tackled issues like police brutality, consumerism, war, the Occupation of Israel, poverty, and the government’s invasion of the public’s privacy. And then there would be pull-out quotes that really hit you with Banksy’s position on certain topics.

The most famous piece in the collection was the one featuring a profile of a little girl who seems to be letting go of her hold on the string of a red heart-shaped balloon, appropriately entitled Girl with Balloon.

Most of the exhibits were print displays, but there was a replica of a phone booth where you could actually enter and stand in, a couple of real-life art pieces, a reproduction of the artist’s imagined studio, and a short film featuring some of the international cities where Banksy decided to stop by and spray paint. Visitors entered a small theater with really plush seats and watched a video that was on loop. I think the whole thing was about ten minutes. The production was really good, though. I sat through it three times.

Banky’s been all over the world

I took too many pictures and loved every single one, so it was difficult to choose which ones to feature here. Suffice it to say that they were all pretty much thought-provoking and impressive. I spent most of my time looking at the pieces and thinking about the messages that Banksy wanted to convey to his audience.

Whether you agree with his opinions or not, Banksy definitely has a very unique art style. I loved that the organizers made an effort to make it as interactive as they can as well as offering the opportunity to think about issues that Japanese people don’t normally think about by bringing in works by artists like Banksy.

I had a lot of fun and won’t forget the experience. If they ever hold another Banksy exhibit it Hokkaido or Japan, I will definitely go again.

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