When it comes to putting street art in a museum, you have two options. Either make it free and accessible for all, while remaining conscious of its counter-cultural origins and socio-political implications, or go full capitalist mode, get loads of print-scans of old graffiti drawings, avoid direct collaboration with artists and, why not, host it in a club with an available bar for even more lucrative potential.
Guess which route The Art of Banksy goes? Funded by Turkey’s largest entertainment and marketing company, Istanbul Entertainment Group, this shameless cash grab arrived at the Adlon Hotel’s tacky Felix Club in July after premiering in the Turkish capital. It was curated by Banksy’s former agent Steve Lazarides without the Bristol artist’s permission, which means that there is no detailed information or context on the canvas-printed works, just hastily typed out descriptions by someone who maybe saw Exit Through the Gift Shop once, or skimmed through the Wall and Piece: Banksy book. But still, it’s Banksy, so the name already guarantees visitors and profit, both from the €14.50 entrance price and the €30 posters you’ll find when you literally exit through the gift shop from the basement club/simulated gallery.
Better is Schöneberg’s Urban Nation, the passion project of German-American street art aficionado Yasha Young. After a few years spent scoring wall-sized commissions for international street artists in Berlin, Young amassed a team of 10 curators, works from 130 international artists and funding from the Berliner Leben and Lotto foundations to open a free-of-charge museum for “Urban and Contemporary Art”. In a two-storey white space and outdoor garden, Urban Nation moves through nine themes from “Pop Art” to “Nature” with a hugely diverse range of recent pieces, mostly canvas creations by artists better known from their murals. Among them are Shephard Fairey (of the Obama “Hope” poster), Banksy hero Blek le Rat and, yes, even a little rat from Banksy himself. Does the genre lose some of its edgy impact when works are transferred from derelict building walls to museum halls? Sure, but November is too cold to wander around looking at buildings, and there’s no admission fee here – let alone a gift shop.
Urban Nation Bülowstr. 7, Schöneberg, Tue-Sun 10-18
The Art of Banksy, Through Nov 30, Felix Club-Restaurant, Behrenstr. 72, Mitte, Mon-Sun 10-20