Banksy graffiti, ‘restored and reclaimed,’ arrives at a gallery in Aspen

Imagine you own a building, maybe a little run down, and you’re ready to demolish it for something new. But one wall is covered in graffiti by the anonymous British artist Banksy. It was painted without permission — technically, it’s illegal vandalism — and now, it’s worth millions of dollars.

“What do you do?” said Simon Bull, the owner of the Meuse Gallery that’s now showing a collection of Banksy’s art in Aspen. “You know, you want to respect the original work, but also, you just kind of hit the jackpot.”

Well, you might call Bull’s son, Chris, who runs the Fine Art Restoration Company in London. His business works with art that dates back several centuries, but he’s also developed a reputation for reclaiming and preserving Banksy artworks — by cutting them right out of a building. A couple of those wall chunks and several other versions of Banksy art are now on display in an exhibition at the Meuse Gallery, paired with informational panels about the preservation process and the art-market demand for a renegade’s work.

“You have this transition of street art, from the outsider to the insider,” Simon Bull said. “And in a way, that’s one of the backstories to the show. … It was something that people would want to destroy and get rid of and clean, and now it’s something that people lust after, want to acquire, want to invest in.”

Bull, who’s also an artist himself, sees this show as an educational opportunity: There’s more wallspace dedicated to storyboards and photo montages than physical artworks, and Bull estimates it would take someone half an hour to take in all the details.

But unlike something you might see at the Aspen Art Museum down the street — or at many of the Banksy exhibitions that have already been displayed at big art institutions — the works currently showing at Meuse Gallery are for sale.

A wall of Banksy graffiti — removed from the building it was painted on so it could be preserved — hangs at the Meuse Gallery in downtown Aspen. It’s part of an exhibition that explores the process of reclaiming and restoring works of street art.

Kaya Williams

/

Aspen Public Radio

A wall of Banksy graffiti — removed from the building it was painted on so it could be preserved — hangs at the Meuse Gallery in downtown Aspen. It’s part of an exhibition that explores the process of reclaiming and restoring works of street art.

There are two Banksy walls onsite, as well as a two-piece canvas of the famous “Girl With Balloon.” Another wall, also available for purchase, is so large it has to be stored in a warehouse instead; it’s one of several pieces that are also available as canvas prints.

Bull recognizes that the process of reclaiming Banksy’s street art can be “controversial.” There are some people, he said, who believe that “once Banksy has tagged a building, it should stay there, and if it gets painted over or destroyed, c’est la vie.”   

But Bull also sees a lot of opportunity in saving these works from potential destruction: “You could become like a little bit of art history yourself,” he said.

And showing the work in this museum-like format might be what Banksy’s been trying to do all along, according to Bull. This is, after all, an artist who once put his own works in institutions like The Met and Tate Britain — without invitation or permission.

“It shows a side of Banksy that values the ephemeral, but also kind of longs after the kind of notoriety that would be in a museum,” Bull said. “Because it was his stated intent — like, he tried to put his work in a museum as a subversive sort of countercultural action. But then years later, because of his incredible marketing skills, you get to the place where people are actually putting his work in museums now.”

“Banksy: Restored and Reclaimed” is on display at the Meuse Gallery in Aspen through the end of March. It will later go on tour to two other Meuse Gallery locations in St. Helena and Carmel, California.

This post was originally published on this site