A major Russian art exhibition center is allegedly running an unauthorized exhibition of street artist Banksy’s work that even the artist himself didn’t know about, according to organizers and the artist’s social media.
The Banksy exhibit at the Central House of Artists was the first solo display of the famously reclusive artist’s work in Russia. Running from June to September, the exhibition includes sketches, prints and original objects on loan from several private collectors and museums.
The news of the exhibit was a surprise to the artist himself.
“What the hell is that?” the British street artist asked in a screenshot of a private exchange posted on Instagram Wednesday in which he is told, ostensibly for the first time, about the event.
In the conversation, Banksy is told that a building with a “Banksy” banner houses a paid exhibit of his work in Moscow.
In response, the artist said he does not charge for his art “unless there’s a fairground wheel.”
“I wish I could find it funny.” Banksy wrote.
Entrepreneur Alexander Nachkebia, whose company IQ Art Management organized the show, said he anticipated the artist’s negative reaction.
“The fact that Banksy paid attention to our exhibition reaffirms the significance of this event,” Nachkebia told the RBC news website.
Nachkebia said he expects upwards of a quarter of a million people to attend the exhibition, and predicted it would be “the most visited” display ever of Banksy’s work.
In a nod to his own distinct style of displaying unauthorized art in public spaces, Banksy said he may not be “the best person to complain about people putting up pictures without getting permission.”
“LOL,” the anonymous street artist said when offered to post “a screengrab of this conversation” in lieu of a public statement on the Moscow exhibition.