A cruise ship in the port of Venice in 2017 (via Marco Verch’s Flickrstream)

British graffiti artist Banksy has made a surprise appearance in the Venice Biennale. The mysterious artist posted a video on Instagram this morning showing himself (all but his face, of course) installing a stall near St. Mark’s Square, where he disguised himself as a street vendor selling quaint oil paintings.

At his stall, labeled with a small sign reading “Venice in Oil,” Banksy displayed paintings in gold frames that show fragments of a cruise ship. The work appears to be referencing the pollution that colossal cruise ships cause to the city as they cross the Grand Canal.

The short clip shows a series of passersby (and one stray cat) admiring — or scoffing at — the display. Later on, Venetian policemen evacuate Banksy from the square for having no permit. “You have to have authorization or you have to go away. You can’t stay here,” he’s told by an officer, as the scene cuts to a shot of a cruise ship steaming away in front of a row of gondolas.

The surreptitious artist captioned the video with a tongue-in-cheek complaint about never being invited to the biennale: “Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

4 replies on “Banksy Sets Up an Unauthorized Art Stall in Venice”

  1. This is wonderful- I love this man. How ludicrous that those huge ships- or warehouses- are allowed to rattle and loom over one of the world’s great treasures. And how great that the authorities said just that, without irony, to Banksy.

  2. I’m still laughing! Talk about the intersection of art and culture.

    Maybe they couldn’t find him to invite him?

    I hope we see that series again, eventually.

  3. Once again, Banksy establishes himself as one our times’ most shrewd PERFORMANCE artists. He never ceases to invite/cajole the inadvertent audience to ‘complete’ a work. Public reaction is the final brush stroke and he confidently relies on a mass prosaic mindset. The many fall for this masterful trickster every time. And entirely thankfully.

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