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Why Is Banksy's Art In Miami Without His Permission?

Anton Vaganov
Getty Images

Miami Art Week is over but one exhibit is sticking around: "The Art of Banksy" offers a 20-year snapshot of the world-renowned graffiti artist's best art pieces.

Banksy’s identity remains anonymous, but in October the artist shocked art aficionados when someone bought his “Girl With Balloon” for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s Auction House in London and then, upon purchase, the painting destroyed itself with a shredder built into the frame.

Now, Banksy’s former manager Steve Lazarides has brought a controversial exhibit to Miami without the artist's permission. It will be on display until Feb. 28. Lazarides joined Sundial to address concerns regarding the Bansky exhibit and talked about how much he admires his old friend.

 This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.  

WLRN: Banksy has these issues of run-ins with the law, which adds to his fame. But at the same time it must have driven you crazy as his former manager.

LAZARIDES: He's the eternal rebel! But in all the years I've worked with him he never got caught. So for someone who was that prolific we did some insane stunts. One of the reasons for his anonymity was not some clever self-promotional tool but when he was just a straight up graffitti artist in the mid-90s... He was absolutely prolific and there was a policy towards graffiti so he adopted the anonymity purely to not get arrested and then that became part of his persona.

You have an unauthorized exhibition and of course there has been criticism especially from Banksy's current manager. In the statement to the Miami Herald he said, "Not only do these people abuse Banksy's name for their own financial greed but they also mislead the general public into believing they have something to do with the artist." How do you respond to that?

I take slight umbrage of that because ever since the beginning it's always been built as an unauthorized exhibition. I've gone to great pains to make everyone understand this isn't a Banksy show. This is a show of Banksy art. This isn't something that he's created. And my take on it is, I think in his heart of hearts where would you rather your work reside -- in the home of one collector or out there for the general public to come and especially since it's the general public that made him.

What do you say about the ticket price?

This isn't like a cash machine with money pouring out. And I think if it had been any other artist other than Banksy people would not [bat an eyelash] about having to pay to get into a show. Really this show shouldn't be an exhibit and you shouldn't be paying. This show should be in a museum and it should be for free but the museums would skew his work. If we want to see it we're the ones that have to put something together to do it. 

Why Miami? Why do you want to come here?

I think it was partly to tie in with [Art] Basel and Miami has always had a great graffiti tradition as well.

How is this exhibition going to change the perspective on how we understand street art? What's the new perspective that you're hoping to shed light on?

This show is a snapshot of 20 years worth of work that he's done. There were pieces that were purchased commercially for me. So people can get kind of a real broad cross-section of what it is and who it is about.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.
Chris Remington knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
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