street art

Amid backlash, BANKSY UNIVERSE opens in BGC. Here’s what to know.

Luna Coscolluela

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Amid backlash, BANKSY UNIVERSE opens in BGC. Here’s what to know.

BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA will run from May 14 to November 20.

Luna Coscolluela/RAPPLER

'The irony of Banksy’s work being gathered and shown in a museum is not completely lost to us,' admits the Metropolitan Museum of Manila's head of special projects and exhibitions

MANILA, Philippines – Despite receiving backlash on social media, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (The M) is set to open its exhibition BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024 on Tuesday, May 14. 

Organizers earlier confirmed to Rappler that the exhibit is “not authorized or endorsed” by the graffiti artist himself, prompting fans to call out the Bonifacio Global City (BGC)-based museum. They said the initiative defeats the essence of the works of Banksy, who’s best known for creating art that tackles socio-political issues. 

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Pest Control, the organization that handles Banksy, also reiterated on its website that it was “not involved or associated” with any international exhibition of Banksy’s works. 

Still, The M is pushing through with the exhibit, noting that it will feature over a hundred of Banksy’s works, which are “almost impossible to see…outside of the specific location that they were created.” 

Here’s what you can expect from BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA: 

Art, Collage, Painting
STREET ART. The exhibition opens with the graffiti artist’s works in their actual locations. Photo by Luna Coscolluela

The exhibition features works from the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy’s time in London, Los Angeles, and New York City. It includes displays of his work, several recreations of his murals, and installations tracing his trajectory as an artist who has been committed to confronting social and political issues.

“BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024 promises an immersive experience that presents the disturbing yet poetic world of the famous – and famously anonymous – street artist,” said The M in a press release. “The exhibit offers a comprehensive view of Banksy’s impact on the street art movement.”

The BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024 has been brought to The M by the BANKSY UNIVERSE team, an independent collective of individuals dedicated to preserving the artist’s works and sharing them with the rest of the world. Their goal is to introduce the immersive experience not only to Manila but throughout Asia.

“We had a simple dream and that was to bring [Banksy’s] art to Manila, to the Filipino audience,” said BANKSY UNIVERSE member and spokesperson Chris Johnson during the recent press preview.

Pieces from the exhibition come from the collections of Banksy Universe Collective members whose identities have been kept anonymous. Johnson also confirmed that some of the pieces have come from Filipino collectors.

The exhibition recently received criticism after BGC promoted the event in a now deleted social media post. 

Online, individuals pointed out the irony of Banksy’s works, many of which provide commentary against capitalism and commercialism, being displayed in a financial business district. BGC faced further criticism after it stated that, ““”Art murals and executions in and around BGC remain to be curated and permitted.”

Popular online artists like Tarantadong Kalbo produced art as well, commenting on the irony.

Bambina Olivares, The M’s head of special projects and exhibitions, shared that the institution is aware of the criticism surrounding the exhibition.

“The irony of Banksy’s work being gathered and shown in a museum is not completely lost [on] us,” she said. “But we also have to hold the practicality of where else we can show something like this.”

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RADICAL. Banksy’s works are known for their political and social commentary. Photo by Luna Coscolluela

She stated that the exhibition is meant to be a tribute to how Banksy has “elevated graffiti and a form of vandalism into art.”

“It is not out of taking advantage of his art and just appropriating,” Olivares explained. “We do it with respect and awareness.”

Den, Indoors, Person
UNAUTHORIZED. BANKSY UNIVERSE is one of many unauthorized Banksy exhibitions. Photo by Luna Coscolluela

BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024 received criticism after it was confirmed that the exhibition was not authorized or endorsed by Banksy or his representatives. The exhibition is not the first of its kind; similar unauthorized Banksy exhibits have been and are to be displayed in locations such as Vancouver and New York City.

The exhibition, which will be on display until November 20, promises to be “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,” said The M.

A limited number of prints and vinyls are available for purchase from the Banksy Universe Collective. The proceeds will be donated to the collective’s partner organization Childhope Philippines, a non-government organization that “protects and educates children in street situations.”

To visit the BANKSY UNIVERSE | MANILA 2024 exhibition, you will have to purchase an All Access Day Pass to the museum priced at P550. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and PWDs. Tickets can be purchased via The M is open from 11 am to 5 pm from Tuesday to Friday. On Saturdays, they are open from 10 am to 5 pm.

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