Banksy is a celebrated figure in the world of contemporary art, renowned for creating visually stunning and politically charged artworks. Over the past two decades, he has staged numerous exhibitions that have left a lasting impact on the art world, each with its unique style and message. We take a chronological look at Banksy’s most notable exhibitions to date.
Rivington Street Tunnel, 2000
In London’s street art hub of Shoreditch, Banksy held his debut solo exhibition in the Rivington Street Tunnel on May 31st, 2000. The exhibit showcased a collection of Banksy’s signature stencilled artworks, which he spray-painted onto the tunnel’s walls. The opening party took place later that week, complete with beers and some hip-hop music playing from the back of a transit van.
“We came out of a pub one night arguing about how easy it would be to hold an exhibition in London without asking for anyones permission. As we walked through a tunnel in Shoreditch someone said “You’re wasting your time, why would you want to paint pictures in a dump like this?”
A week later we came back to the same tunnel with two buckets of paint and a letter. The letter was a forged invoice from a Mickey Mouse arts organisation wishing us luck with the ‘Tunnel Vision mural project’. We hung up some decorators signs nicked off a building site and painted the walls white wearing overalls. We got the artwork up in twenty five minutes and held an opening party later that week with beers and some hip hop pumping out the back of a transit van. Six months later someone knocked a hole in the wall and built a superclub in the middle of the piece. If I had a pound for every time that happened.”
Banksy – Banging your head against a brick wall
Banksy, London Rivington Street, 2000. Image Copyright Steve Lazarides “Banksy Captured”
In a subsequent two-week exhibition at the Cargo superclub, Banksy displayed two pieces that are still visible in the courtyard, one showing a policeman holding a poodle and the other a collaboration with Stylo from the VOP crew depicting a version of the HMV logo.
Barely Legal, 2006
In September of 2006, Banksy held his first US exhibition titled “Barely Legal” in an industrial warehouse in Los Angeles, California, billed as a “three-day vandalised warehouse extravaganza.
The exhibition featured a thought-provoking display that included a 37-year-old Indian elephant named Tai painted in non-toxic paint to blend in with the wallpaper of the room in which it was placed. The artist aimed to draw attention to significant issues that are often overlooked, such as poverty. The painted elephant was a literal representation of the “elephant in the room,” symbolising how the world poverty issue is often ignored. On the opening day of the exhibition, visitors were handed cards with a powerful message that read: “There’s an elephant in the room. There’s a problem we never talk about.”
AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
There’s an elephant in the room.
There’s a problem we never talk about.
The fact is that life is not getting any fairer.
1.7 Billion people have no access to clean drinking water.
20 Billion people live below the poverty line.
Every day hundreds of people are made to feel physically sick by morons at art shows telling them how bad the world is but never actually doing something about it.
Anybody want a free glass of wine?
Banksy’s artistic journey continued with his latest exhibition, exploring the “modified oils” genre, following his previous exhibition, “Crude Oils.” The lounge set-up was the perfect backdrop for the stunning masterpieces on display. Other stencils visible at the exhibition included “Bomb Love / Hugger,” “HMV dog,” “Grannies,” and “Paranoid Pictures,” and were a testament to his artistic brilliance.
While in Los Angeles, the artist also targeted Disneyland in Anaheim, where he left an inflatable figure depicting a Guantánamo Bay detainee behind one of the rides, intending to draw attention to the situation in the detention camp. A video of the artist placing the figure in the theme park could also be seen at the exhibition.
The exhibition was a tremendous success in the US, attracting high-profile celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Banksy “The Elephant in the Room” Barely Legal 2006. Image Copyright Banksy
The Cans Festival, 2008
During the weekend of May 3-5, 2008, Banksy with Picture On Walls organised and hosted an exhibition called “The Cans Festival” in London. The exhibition was held in the Leake Street tunnel, which was previously used by Eurostar, beneath the historic London Waterloo station. The unique aspect of this exhibition was that it provided an opportunity for graffiti and stencil artists to paint and display their artwork. This exciting opportunity provided a platform for young and emerging artists to showcase their talent alongside established artists, making it a truly inclusive and inspiring event.
It’s fascinating to note that even today, more than a decade later, the Leake Street tunnel is still covered in graffiti and is now famously referred to as the Banksy Tunnel. The Cans Festival was a remarkable event that left a lasting impact on the area.
The Cans Festival, curated by Banksy and Picture on Walls
The village pet store and chargrill 2008
The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill was an extraordinary installation by Banksy. Held in Greenwich Village in 2008, the exhibit marked Banksy’s first official exhibition in New York and was designed to question “our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming.”
The installation was a visual treat that aimed to challenge the viewers’ perspective on animal rights and the treatment of animals in the food industry. The exhibit featured a variety of bizarre exhibits, each carefully crafted to make a statement. The animatronic sexy hot dogs and the chicken nuggets with legs dipping themselves in sauce were not just shock value tactics, but rather, they were designed to provoke viewers to think deeply about their consumption of animal products.
Image Copyright Banksy
Banksy Versus Bristol Museum, 2009
One of his most notable exhibitions was “Banksy Versus Bristol Museum” in 2009, showcasing over 100 of his artworks, including pieces created specifically for the exhibition, which lasted 11 weeks, from June 13th to August 31st.
Over 100 works of art were featured, exploring themes of rebellion, politics, and social justice. Banksy’s artistic brilliance was evident as he placed his paintings in unconventional locations throughout the museum, amid historical collections of Old Masters and other exhibits. The sculptures, such as Angel Bust and other pieces, were strategically placed among the museum’s displays, creating a stimulating contrast between the old and the new.
Upon entering the museum, an eerie sight greeted visitors: a burnt-out ice cream van playing a haunting tune, setting the tone for the exhibition’s unconventional ambience. A riot policeman was mounted on a children’s horse ride, adding to the exhibition’s surreal and dystopian vibe. Even fish fingers swimming in a goldfish bowl were on display, a surprising and unexpected addition to the museum’s collection.
The show was held at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery and was a significant landmark in his career, cementing his reputation as a leading voice in contemporary art.
‘Banksy vs Bristol Museum’ Riot Coppers
Better Out Than In, 2013
Throughout the bustling streets of New York City, Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” took the city by storm. For a month-long period from October 1st to 31st 2013, Banksy was brightening up the city with his public intervention, a fun combination of scavenger hunt and performance.
Every day, a new piece of art appeared, keeping the locals and visitors on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the next surprise. From graffiti to sculptures, Banksy’s unique style and messages spread throughout the city throughout the month of October, keeping New Yorkers on their toes.
Banksy’s “The Sirens of the Lambs” art installation. Day 11
One of Banksy’s most ambitious projects to date was “Dismaland” in 2015, which occurred in “Tropicana” a derelict amusement lido in Weston-super-Mare.
The Dismaland exhibition featured a collection of politically-charged artwork from 58 artists around the world, including notable names such as Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo, among others.
Dismaland showcased a range of art pieces, from unique and strange to wonderfully eclectic. Among the exhibits, there was a tragic crash scene featuring Cinderella’s lifeless body, the image of an Orca jumping out of a toilet bowl, and an installation featuring remote-controlled motor boats overcrowded with refugees. The exhibition also featured a riot-control vehicle transformed into a slide for children, a modern version of the famous Punch and Judy puppet show, and a self-operated puppet revue show made entirely out of items salvaged from skips in Hackney. There was a Pocket money loan shop offering loans to children at an extremely high-interest rate of 5,000% APR and a dining table adorned with crockery that resembled a three-dimensional version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast mixed with the chaos of a rather big bull in a china shop.
Dismaland also showcased various galleries with mesmerising artwork by artists such as Damien Hirst, Josh Keyes, and Paco Pomet. The diverse and intriguing art pieces include porcelain mice adorned with human ears attached to their backs, intricately woven tapestries created using car drilling techniques, and exquisitely tattooed Royal Doulton dolls. The exhibition also features James Cauty’s impressive Riot Village.
Dismaland was a massive success, drawing in over 150,000 visitors during its five-week run.
Dismaland advert. Copyright Banksy
Walled Off Hotel, 2017
Banksy’s career reached another milestone with the “Walled Off Hotel” exhibition in 2017. The hotel in Bethlehem is a fully functional establishment with Banksy’s artworks adorning the rooms.
Located near the West Bank barrier in Bethlehem, Palestine, “The Walled Off Hotel” is a boutique establishment that boasts only ten unique rooms, each featuring a distinct artistic touch by Banksy and other talented artists. The hotel’s theme is inspired by the old English gentlemen’s clubs during colonial times and satirically references Britain’s historical role in the region. Guests can choose to stay in the unforgettable Presidential suite with a bullethole hot tub or opt for a more affordable bunk bed dressed in military attire. The hotel also features a cinema, a colonialism-themed piano bar, and a museum curated by Dr. Gavin Grindon from Essex University that showcases a collection of fact-checked materials, local stories, and testimonies. The primary objective of the hotel is to raise awareness about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provide a platform for everyone to learn about the history and culture of the area.
The hotel extends a warm invitation to people from all sides of the Middle East conflict to stay and immerse themselves in its one-of-a-kind atmosphere. It’s worth noting that Banksy, the hotel’s creator, has no association with any political organisation or lobbying group.
Banksy Walled off Hotel entrance, Bethlehem 2017. Image copyright Banksy
Gross Domestic Product, 2019
In a bold move, Banksy opened his very first homewares store, titled “Gross Domestic Product ™,” in the bustling town of Croydon, London. The store was created in response to legal action taken against Banksy by a greeting card company that attempted to take legal custody of the name “Banksy” from the artist. To prevent this from happening, Banksy was advised to sell his own branded merchandise. Hence, the store “Gross Domestic Product” was born!
The store offered a range of homewares and lifestyle products, including mugs, doormats, rugs, and other items, all adorned with Banksy’s signature subversive and irreverent style. However, the store was only for window shopping. Later on, Banksy released some merchandise for sale through his online store, which sold out as quickly as they were made available.
Banksy, Gross domestic product Store, Croydon. Image © Banksy
Cut and Run, 2023
Banksy announced his first official solo exhibition in 14 years called ‘CUT & RUN’ at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. The exhibition showcased stencils and original sketches from Banksy’s career from 2008 until 2023.
The show aimed to reveal the behind-the-scenes processes of how his works were made, including a behind-the-scenes of the famous “Love is in the Bin” shredded piece, a new version of Kissing Coppers, which first appeared in 2004. Other popular stencils included Mobile Lovers and the Pillow Fight piece from the Walled Off Hotel in Palestine. The show also included authentic artefacts, ephemera and the artist’s actual toilet.
Banksy’s exhibitions have pushed the boundaries of contemporary art, offering a powerful commentary on the social and political issues facing our world today. From his early days as a graffiti artist to his current status as a global icon, Banksy’s work continues to inspire and challenge us, leaving an indelible mark on the art world and beyond. We have looked at his top ten most notable exhibitions, and there are more early exhibitions we haven’t mentioned, such as Existencilism 2002, Turf War 2003, and Crude Oils, 2005.
Visit our online store here to discover an extensive collection of Banksy’s thought-provoking artworks. Our selection includes iconic pieces reflecting society, politics, and culture, each with its unique message and style. If you’re searching for a particular artwork that’s been difficult to find, don’t hesitate to contact our team of experts. We’re here to help you acquire and add that elusive piece to your collection.