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Banksy Seoul show embroiled in replica controversy

Exhibition organizer says it aimed to deliver street artist’s message rather than focusing on showing original works

An installation view of “The Art of Banksy - Without Limits” at Seouliteum in eastern Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
An installation view of “The Art of Banksy - Without Limits” at Seouliteum in eastern Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

When the news spread that Banksy’s works would be shown in Seoul at the exhibition “The Art of Banksy - Without Limits,” it became one of the most anticipated shows.

The exhibition kicked off Friday at Seouliteum in eastern Seoul after touring 11 countries since 2016. A total of 25,000 tickets were sold in preorders before the opening, reflecting the popularity of the works and curiosity about the mysterious artist.

Soon after the show’s opening, visitors began posting reviews expressing frustration that there were only a few original Banksy works.

“It is a pity that the show did not specify that most of works are replicas,” wrote one visitor who went to the exhibition.

Among some 150 artworks, 27 of them are originals, according to exhibition organizer LMPE Company, which sought to clarify the issue.

“There were some misunderstandings about the exhibition. We are preparing some leaflets that indicate which artworks are original,” said Park Bong-su, a senior manager at LMPE Company. “Banksy is an artist who has been outspoken on social issues. The exhibition aims to deliver the artist’s messages and help audiences realize they can also spread positive influences to the world in their own ways.”

The Seoul-based organizer has offered to refund those who wished to cancel their visits.

The exhibition includes three original prints from Banksy -- “Smiling Copper,” “Consumer Jesus (Christ with Shopping Bags)” and “Bomb Hugger” -- which bear the “Picture on Walls (POW)” mark, according to the organizer. POW is the name of a loose collection of street artists, including Banksy, established in 2003 allowing artists to sell directly without paying commission to a dealer.

Other originals include several pieces from Dismaland -- the pop-up art exhibition held by Banksy in 2015 in the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, England. 

A reproduction of Banksy’s “Bathroom” shown at the exhibition “The Art of Banksy - Without Limits” (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
A reproduction of Banksy’s “Bathroom” shown at the exhibition “The Art of Banksy - Without Limits” (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)


Launched by a Romanian company Events, the global touring exhibition started in Istanbul, Turkey, before showing in Europe, stopping at cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna. Seoul is the sole Asian city to host the show, according to Events. After Seoul, the show will travel on to Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte in the US.

The replicas on exhibition include “Laugh Now,” an iconic piece that shows a monkey with the catch phrase “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge.” The stencil work was first commissioned as a mural of 10 identical monkeys by the Ocean Rooms club in Brighton, UK. Monkeys are one of the most frequently used animal characters in Banksy’s works.

“Bathroom” is another replica at the show. The artist once revealed on his Instagram pictures of a group of rats wreaking havoc in a bathroom that appears to be at the artist’s home. He left the caption “My wife hates it when I work from home.”

Meanwhile, the artist has warned about exhibitions around world that are held in his name, noting that many of them are being held without his authorization.

“Members of the public should be aware there has been a recent spate of Banksy exhibitions none of which are consensual. They’ve been organized entirely without the artist’s knowledge or involvement. Please treat them accordingly,” he said on his website.


By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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