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© Joshua Lamptey, Shepherds Studio

There is something deliciously appropriate about Red Eight Gallery's first exhibition. Tucked away in the heart of London's prosperous Royal Exchange, the City of London's first contemporary art gallery has exploded onto the scene with their Banking on Banksy exhibit.

Morons (Sepia) | 2007 | Screen print – signed

There is not much I can say about Banksy and his work that hasn't already been noted by detractors and disciples alike. However, as someone who is firmly of the mind that his works are generally puerile and dull, I did find some toothsome comfort in the irony of seeing anti-capitalist works like Barcode (2007) in the center of London's financial district. Or indeed of the silkscreen Morons (2007), showing an auctioneer selling off a canvas with the text I Can't Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit being hung in a gallery partnered with a company promising to "transform the Art World with industry leading metaverse art valuation and AI driven yield management." It's unclear if having these sorts of works hanging in the center of London's Square Mile was a deliberate extension of Banksy's usual sardonic wit, but if it is it's the same sort of biting satire that has the works of the "anti-establishment, anti-art world" up for sale anywhere between £25,000 and £2.5million. However, with not much of aesthetic merit to note - you've seen one Banksy, you've seen them all - you can always find enjoyment in the fact that Jesus Christ With Shopping Bags (2004) is being displayed across the street from a Louis Vuitton.

© Joshua Lamptey, Shepherds Studio

With that said, the space itself is fantastic: tucked away neatly at the Royal Exchange in the center of London's Square Mile, Red Eight is just as classy as you would expect, if a little sterile. The tight but swish spiral staircases guiding you through the exhibit harken to the shoddy basement galleries of early noughties Mayfair, albeit much brighter and cleaner. The exhibition itself is also well proportioned, with some delicious framing choices and great natural lighting. As to be expected with a collection Banksy prints, there isn't much curatorial narrative to be found - but in a space this small, bright, and dripping in ironic juxtaposition there isn't much need for one.

Banking on Banksy is on from August 25th to September 15th 2022 at the Red Eight Gallery, 9 The Royal Exchange, EC3V 3LR.


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