My favourite Banksy dog image isn’t in the blockbuster exhibition: The Art of Banksy, making its North American premiere in Toronto this month.
My favourite image is a line drawing of a bulldog against a pink background. But the print does appear in several videos airing curator Steve Lazarides’ commentary dotting the six-room exhibition in an old industrial building.
Who is Banksy (and what does he have to do with dogs)?
First, Banksy is a British graffiti artist who gained notoriety stenciling politically charged images throughout London, while escaping identification even today. A portrait of the artist with head concealed starts the highly-promoted exhibition oddly not endorsed by the artist himself.
Second, Banksy remains absent as Lazarides and backing promotions company Starvox Exhibits reap the benefits of this exhibition held over to August 18, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario. (See Globe and Mail review here).
For twelve years, Lazarides worked with Banksy, as his agent and biggest fan during the street artist’s rise from vandal to activist to large-scale exhibition art world bad boy. To this day, his identity is secret and British press publish dark blurry photos ‘captured’ of him.
No pieces in The Art of Banksy are from the street. The photographs of Banksy’s street graffiti in the second room are Lazaride’s own. This exhibition is a collection of 80 pieces belonging to collectors – including my favourite room: the irreverent and sassy prints, part mocking, part pure irritation.
My favourite image in the show?
The one with Toto, of course. “Stop and Search” is a print of Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy submitting to a security search while little Toto looks longingly at his basket.
There’s only one other cute canine in the exhibit: “HMV” is a replica ‘Victor the RCA dog’ (love the name too) with a little gun control commentary on the side.
Otherwise, dogs aren’t significant Banksy images except when English Bulldogs reference Britain.
Of course, considering Banksy is the subject of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, this ironic journey from street stencils to major Los Angeles exhibition Barely Legal ends when the artists’ relationship with Lazarides ends: in 2008 and, yes, at the entrance of the gift store.
The Art of Banksy runs June 13 to August 19, 2018 at 213 Stirling Road, Toronto. (Lansdowne subway stop is the closest – parking is limited). Tickets are $35.