Exhibition featuring Banksy’s ‘Girl With Balloon’ opens in Taipei

TAIPEI (CNA) – A free exhibition featuring “Girl With Balloon” and other art pieces by the anonymous England-based street artist known as Banksy opened on Saturday in Taipei and will run until March 24.

The art display, titled “Banksy: The Authentic Rebel,” is the first of its kind for Taiwan and showcases 25 signature Banksy pieces presented by international auction house Phillips at the art gallery space at Bellavita Taipei, according to the exhibition’s Facebook event page.

Phillips’ International Specialist in 20th Century & Contemporary Art Lee Mei-ling (李美玲) said on Friday that the exhibition featured a screen-print of “Girl With Balloon,” one of Banksy’s most famous works, on woven paper.

Created as a stencil street art piece in 2002, the image of a young girl with her hand stretched toward a heart-shaped red balloon has become a symbol of political protests – such as during the Syrian civil war in 2014.

Lee said the “Girl With Balloon” represents simplicity and cultural reflection at the same time, with the balloon blown away by the wind symbolizing hope that is taken away.

Lee added that Banksy’s vandalized oil painting “Bacchus At the Seaside,” made in 2009 with a height and a width of over two meters, is also noteworthy at the exhibition.

The painting is Banksy’s satirical appropriation of Guido Reni’s 1621 masterpiece showing a nearly naked man and a woman. Banksy deliberately smeared their face with white paint and added a traffic cone over the man’s genitals.

Large oil paintings are a beloved category in the international art market and one of Banksy’s oil paintings was auctioned for US$615,000 online in 2013, Lee said. Banksy donated the proceeds to charity.

Another piece that should be noticed in the exhibition is the “Smiley Copper H,” which shows an image of a police officer with a smiley face, spray-painted on a cut out dry wall and a wooden door, with the door knob still visible, Lee said.

The value of the “Girl With Balloon” screen print being shown in Taipei skyrocketed from £150 (US$200) in 2002 to £80,000 in 2018, when a “Girl With Balloon” canvas was shredded by a shredding device installed by Banksy right after it was sold at an auction last year.

In October 2018, moments after the hammer fell at the auction of a framed “Girl With Balloon” in London, alarms sounded and the canvas dropped through a hidden shredder built into the bottom of the frame, leaving half the painting hanging in ribbons below the frame, according to Banksy’s Instagram post.

It remains unclear how the shredder was activated.

The elusive artist explained in the post he built the frame “in case it was ever put up for auction.” Quoting Picasso, Banksy wrote on his post: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso.” Pest Control, a firm representing Banksy, has titled the new half-shredded piece “Love is in the Bin.”

By Sabine Cheng and Chi Jo-yao