While it has been labelled as yet another ‘fake’ exhibition on the artist’s website, Banksy: Genius or Vandal is attracting over one million visitors to its latest iteration at Immersion Vegas in the city’s Fashion Show mall.
The show brings together over 70 artworks from collectors around the world including a print of the iconic Girl with Balloon – a version of which was famously shredded during an auction at Sotheby’s last year – Stop Esso, a mural on a brick wall showing a couple seemingly enjoying themselves at the beach, and a tender and affecting early work entitled Rose Trap, which was originally sprayed on a wall in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol and later framed by local residents.
The popularity of the show, which opened in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Madrid, Lisbon and Hong Kong prior to this, proves Banksy’s enduring appeal among a wide audience of collectors and art lovers alike. With his continued attacks on corruption, surveillance and capitalism he remains at the forefront of a street art movement that shines a light on the darker sides of our society while at the same time producing aesthetically striking work that is infused with biting wit.
With the title ‘Genius or Vandal’ the exhibition appears to be engaging in the age old debate as to whether work by Banksy and his contemporaries belongs in a gallery, or, as organiser Christoph Rahofer put it, “Is this street art or is this art art?” Whatever the answer, the popularity of exhibitions such as these makes it clear that Banksy’s art is about accessibility above all; whether it appears on the street, an institution or a mall, it never fails to appeal to a range of people rather than a small art world elite. As Rahofer said, “You don’t have to be an art expert to understand the message,” and his messages are more relevant today, in this period of political unrest and societal divisions, than ever before.