Grayson Perry alongside the Banksy artwork in the Royal Academy's 2018 summer exhibition (screenshot by the author via Vimeo)

Grayson Perry alongside the Banksy artwork in the Royal Academy’s 2018 summer exhibition (screenshot by the author via Vimeo)

Sometimes, being Banksy opens doors. The elusive British street artist was rejected when he first submitted a work to the Royal Academy of Arts’ 250th summer exhibition, probably because he submitted it under the pseudonym “Bryan S Gaakman” — an anagram of “Banksy anagram.” However, when artist and guest exhibition coordinator Grayson Perry subsequently contacted Banksy and asked him to submit a work for the show, the street artist re-submitted the work and it was accepted. Banksy recounted the sequence of events in an Instagram post.

“I entered an early version of this into the RA summer exhibition under the pseudonym Bryan S Gaakman — an anagram of ‘banksy anagram’,” he wrote. “It was refused. Then a month later I got a mail from the co-ordinator Grayson Perry asking me to submit something so I sent it again.”

The work is a not-so-subtle jab at the UK’s referendum on European Union membership, whose second anniversary is next week (though its implications and mechanics are just as opaque now as they were immediately after the initial vote). It features a pro-Brexit, “Vote to leave” campaign poster, with one of Banksy’s patched-up, heart-shaped balloons painted over part of the word “leave” so that it reads “love.” It’s now hanging in gallery three of the Royal Academy, a room Perry himself hung with works that have a similarly overt political bent.

“There was a strong, current events, political vibe going on, so I amped it up,” Perry says in a video about the show on the Royal Academy website. “We got old Banksy here, and I put him next to this painting that I was rejecting, but then I brought it in because I thought next to the Banksy it’s kind of interesting — what’s that about?” The other nearly-rejected work is a painting of a screaming woman surrounded by figures wearing hijabs.

This is not the first time Banksy has slyly sought to show his work anonymously before revealing that it was his own. During his New York City “residency” he sold what turned out to be authentic works from an inconspicuous display table set up in Central Park. Only a few lucky passersby seized the opportunity to snap up Banksy originals for a cool $60.

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Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...