Derya Evren: We want to bring Banksy's world closer to the people

Published: 22. 12. 2021
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: Photo archives of Derya Evren
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Banksy, a street artist from the UK combining graffiti with the use of stencils, has been gaining popularity for the past twenty years through his peculiar artworks, illegal shenanigans, and his diligently held anonymity.

Banksy is the alias of an artist hailing from the Bristol underground scene, and his identity – despite rigorous speculation – remains unknown. The artist certainly has his reasons. His satirical artworks bear a message, he "writes" his comments in the form of pictures on the walls of large cities, those of London most of all. His work speaks of solidarity with immigrants and often mocks the authorities, commercialism, and the workings of capitalism.

The balloon, the dove, and more

Among his most iconic works are a protester throwing a bouquet instead of a molotov cocktail, a dove in a kevlar vest, indigenous people with spears hunting shopping carts, a girl longingly holding out her hands to a red balloon snatched by the wind, kissing policemen, or a maid sweeping rubbish under a carpet. In 2010, for the MoneyBART episode, Banksy created the opening sketch to The Simpsons, depicting Asian workers in miserable conditions. The sketch was inspired by the fact that The Simpsons is largely produced in South Korea. Banksy also provided financial aid to the artists of the Russian Vojna collective who were being prosecuted, and he directed the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Festival. Banksy did not reveal his identity even when the movie got an Oscar nomination.

The worst kind of dream

Some years ago, in the Weston-super-Mare resort near Bristol, he opened a theme park called Dismaland for a single summer month. He invited ten like-minded artists to cooperate on this project, some of them from Israel and Palestine, and the painter, Damien Hirst, as well as four Czech artists – Vladimír Turner, Ondřej Mladý, Jan Šimánek, and Vojtěch Fröhlich, authors of a video against billboard advertising. Together they all brought to life "the worst kind of dream of the current world."

Banksy's world comes back to Prague

So how does this mysterious artist see the world? Hints of that can be seen at the World of Banksy exhibit in the deconsecrated church of St. Michael just steps away from the Old Town Square of Prague. We spoke about Banksy's work to the co-author and curator of the exhibit, Derya Evren, who also works as an executive and representative of the entity that operates the exhibit.

What is the most intriguing thing about Banksy to you?

He does not do his art just to do art, he does it for the people. He aims to supply a bit of art to our everyday lives, and in so doing share his thoughts or his message if you will. Let's say you are on your way to a shop and you stumble upon his artwork on a wall. It will make you stop and think. I like that.

Banksy himself supposedly does not do exhibits. What is the deal here then?

That is true. Banksy has only ever done a few exhibits, the last one was several years ago. And they only last a day or a couple of days at most. There are currently a few exhibits around the world that are not done by Banksy, but about Banksy. Ours is one just like that. It is called The World of Banksy, and through it, we want to bring his world closer to the people. If somebody wanted to see his work, they would have to travel halfway across the world. We are bringing it to the people in one single place, and we are trying to show them what Banksy's thoughts are. What motivates him to make such artworks. That is our goal, and I believe we have been successful.

Why the deconsecrated church of St. Michael?

When I was first approached in 2019 with the idea of this exhibit being held in Prague, this church was the first place that came to my mind. Unfortunately, we were not able to make contact with the owner and other issues stopped it from going ahead as well. In the end, we had the exhibit in the Mánes Gallery. This year, we finally managed to reach an agreement with the owner. And why this church in particular? It is the place where master Jan Hus first preached to the people of Prague. I see a certain connection between Banksy and Master Jan Hus. In their own ways, they are both reformers of their time and they have both shown a willingness to change something in their society. Thanks to this connection, I feel as though the exhibit has been elevated to another level entirely. If we can agree with the owner, we will remain here for some time yet. I recommend following our social media accounts, as that is where people interested in seeing the exhibit can learn about when it will come to an end.

What is there for people to see?

We have 40 murals, 65 paintings, several video projections and films. The feedback has been positive. People are in for a very interesting and entertaining show.

Could you point out a few of Banksy's artworks displayed at the exhibit whose meaning speaks for itself?

Each of his works has its own deeper meaning. One could write an entire book about that. That is why we have prepared a variety of labels to explain to people what Banksy is trying to communicate through his work. There are several of the artist's latest artworks, including Reading Prison (Oscar Wilde), and Aachooo, which is an old lady sneezing during Covid times. Even the movie about Banksy is very interesting.

Who is Banksy?

So far, the answer to this question does not exist. There have been several possible candidates, but they have all denied it and nothing has ever been proven. Such as in the case of the Swiss artist, Maître de Casson, who was a very serious possibility, same as Massive Attack member, Robert Del Naja. On the other hand, journalist Craig Williams, who spent roughly half a year studying Banksy's work in 2016, says that Banksy is not one single person but an entire collective. The most exacting search for Banksy so far was undertaken by a team from the Queen Mary University of London that used a method usually utilized for tracking criminals. And they concluded that Banksy is the Bristol artist, Robin Gunningham.

The exhibit takes place in the deconsecrated church of St. Michael.


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