Where to find Banksy in Madrid
Well, I can’t tell you where to find the controversial street artist himself of course (even if I knew, I wouldn’t). And so far no original Banksy art has been identified on the streets of the Spanish capital. But local and visiting fans can now get an insight into the mysterious Banksy-universe at the IFEMA-hosted ‘Genious or Vandal?’ – an unauthorized exhibition running until the 10th of March 2019. The first major exhibition in Spain dedicated to the yet unidentified artist.
Personally, I was introduced to the world of Banksy back in 2007 while living in the UK. My housemate had his book titled WALL AND PIECE, and as I was browsing through the pages of meaningful and highly clever art, I became a fan immediately. I ended up buying the book myself a few days later. Since then, my admiration for Banksy and my love for street art, in general, has only grown – resulting in a dedicated section here on the blog too.
I always keep my eye out for urban art whenever I visit or re-visit cities around Europe, with Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast being among my favourites for updating my photo archive. Madrid has an excellent street art scene too, and I was happy to discover a major Banksy exhibition being promoted in my second hometown.
It’s difficult to imagine how the world of street art would look today without the influence of Banksy. For many years the English-born stencil-magician has played the leading role in the change of the perception of street-based art forms, from being frowned upon as simple vandalism to being widely accepted and highly celebrated. Today an original Banksy piece is easily worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Throughout the recent century, Banksy’s work has gone viral many times, most recently with his “self-shredding” masterpiece at Sotheby’s auction in London. The genius of Banksy is found as much “between the lines” as in the painted lines of his large murals – and often the real art is hidden in the public’s reaction to the actual piece.
His art is always a provocation or a satirical (but serious) comment to major world issues. A protest against society, our culture, consumerism, politics, environmental issues, wars and general ethics. Each piece is a statement, whether it’s hidden or right in your face.
Genius or Vandal?
The current Madrid exhibition is not connected to the artist in any way, but it’s well-arranged in themes with the use of photos, videos and installations and it includes more than 70 original pieces. Among the highlights is an original silkscreen from the iconic series ‘Girl with Balloon’. It’s all put together with a collection of pieces from private collectors and in collaboration with Lilley Fine Art / Contemporary Art Trader Gallery.
It is the perfect introduction to Banksy for newbies and a shrine for already-fans like me. And despite having followed his work throughout the years, I still found pieces I had not seen before. I also enjoyed the video montage from the artist’s major “bemusement park” event known as Dismaland.
The set-up where the art is illuminated in dark surroundings works well and makes each piece stand out. On your way around you can access more info on each section with the use of an audio guide on your own smartphone (available in English too). You can easily spend 1-2 hours getting lost in Banksy’s inspiring world and like the Banksy documentary named ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, you will do exactly that.
Naturally, the unknown identity of the artist behind Banksy has led to tons of speculation and controversy throughout the years, and it only takes a quick look at the Wikipedia page linked to the artist to find the most popular theories. But why this obsession with unmasking a great artist? Like wanting to know the truth behind a magician’s greatest trick. Can’t we just sit back and enjoy his/her incredible art – instead of trying to “destroy the legend”? For a celebration of his obvious talent, this Madrid exhibition is a great place to start.
This is a travelling exhibition that has already been visited by more than 500.000 people in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia. Titled ‘Genius or Vandal?’, the curator is asking the visitor to be the judge of which of these Banksy really is – but I’m sure that most visitors will agree at the end.
Where: ESPECIO 5.1 / IFEMA – Feria de Madrid
Nearest metro stop: Line 8 (Feria de Madrid)
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday, 10-21 (10am – 9pm)
Available until: The 10th of March, 2019
General Admission: Tuesday to Friday 12.90€ +fees (children 5.90€ + fees)
/ Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 14.90€ + fees (children 7.90€ + fees)
Tickets: Online HERE or on site.