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'Peak irony': BGC draws flak for controversial 'Banksy Universe' promotion

By Melanie Uson Published Apr 24, 2024 6:34 pm Updated Apr 26, 2024 1:59 pm

Bonifacio Global City (BGC)’s Banksy Universe art exhibition is coming soon. While others were thrilled about the news, there were some who called out the inconsistency between the artist's views on art and the city management's approach.

On Monday, April 22, BGC posted a teaser of the Banksy Universe art exhibition set to take place at The Met Museum. 

“Art is not a crime,” they wrote in the now-edited caption

While the post, which is unavailable as of writing, mostly gained 'heart' and 'wow' reactions, many social media users pointed out the differences in the current management style of BGC and Banksy’s stand regarding art.

One Facebook user inquired in the comments section if artists can now paint walls within the premises of the business district with any consequences. 

In their response, BGC clarified that Banksy Universe will be an art exhibition happening at The Met Museum, adding, “Art murals and executions in and around BGC remain to be curated and permitted.” 

‘Out of touch,’ ‘peak irony’ 

Social media users then called how BGC’s promotion of Banksy’s art is “ironic” and “out of touch,” with many pointing out how they act differently when it comes to local artists and creatives. 

Spoken word artist and poet Alfonso Manalastas lamented how local artists are limited to expressing their art and activism, not to mention being at risk of being subject to legal consequences when apprehended. 

“So absurd that, while [F]ilipino graffiti artists experience material precarity, forced to contend w/ limited public spaces to exhaust their art and activism, even often met w/ legal consequences, the likes of [B]anksy are endorsed by elite spaces like the metropolitan museum no less,” he wrote on his X post. 

He stressed: “Whatever radical posturing is being asserted by the metropolitan museum and its proponents by welcoming [B]anksy into its halls is nothing short of hollow and vacuous and dishonest.”

Comic artist Tarantadong Kalbo, who is known for expressing his stand and dissent to social issues through art, made his version of the teaser poster. His artwork shows a guard blocking a child who seemed to be reaching out for a red balloon, with a caption “Bawal ang yagit dito sa BGC!”  

Banksy does not authorize exhibits 

The public also raised eyebrows with the credibility of the event, especially since it was not announced on its official website. 

Social media personality Gelo Arucan reached out to Pest Control, the organization that handles Banksy, to confirm the authenticity of the exhibition. Pest Control replied to him saying that "it is not authorised or endorsed by the artist Banksy."

"We have no further details about it, or its contents," it added, thanking Arucan for raising the issue.

Pest Control explicitly indicated on its website that it is “not involved or associated” with any exhibition of its work in different countries. 

They added that while the public is allowed to use Banksy's artwork images for non-commercial, personal amusement, they stressed that they do prohibit the use of it for commercial purposes.
"...including launching a range of merchandise or tricking people into thinking something is made or endorsed by the artist when it isn’t. Saying 'Banksy wrote copyright is for losers in his book' doesn’t give you free rein to misrepresent the artist and commit fraud," they wrote.

Banksy is a renowned Bristol-based artist whose identity remains unknown. He is known for his "anti-authoritarian art" sprayed in public spaces like the famous
Girl with Balloon, which was shredded halfway during an auction and later titled Love is in the Bin.
Statement from The Metropolitan Museum of Manila 

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila (The M), the project lead of the upcoming exhibit, told PhilSTAR L!fe that Banky Universe in Manila is a “unique opportunity to learn more about Banksy’s art and explore the universality of the many piercing social, political and domestic issues it raises.” 

They also confirmed that Banksy did not authorize the upcoming exhibit, but maintained that the exhibit will provide valuable insight into the journey of the artist.

“While BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024, like many such exhibitions in museums around the world, is not authorized or endorsed by Banksy, it will feature over a hundred works that trace the trajectory of Banksy’s career, affording visitors a closer look into the themes that preoccupy him, as well as the transformative power of art,” they said in the statement.