Last Friday marked the final day for one of Hong Kong’s most notable shows this year. Phillips Gallery teamed up with Pest Control – Banky’s front office set up back in 2009 – hosting a sizeable exhibition that featured 27 works spread over two locations. The show featured both older, iconic works and included some new ones too.
Titled - “Who’s Laughing Now” – this was his first solo exhibition here and just over ten years since his work was last in town as part of a group show. The event saw more than 5200 visitors from private buyers to the general public speaking its daily average as the event was coming to an end. Advertised as a ‘selling exhibition’ gave potential buyers access to a range of work from canvas, to print, and sculptures all valued respectively. 14 of the 27 works were sold within the first couple weeks with special interest culminating around his most prolific characters.
Arguably due to being amongst the ‘original cast’ of misfits and mascots meant that the long-standing icons of Banksy’s earliest days stole the limelight. No doubt that recent pranks like the shredding of “Girl with the Balloon” added fuel to the fire and ironically as he battles with Capitalism in defiant acts of vandalism against his own work it only serves to drive up the value even more. Other notable characters that faired well included the usual suspects of chimps and rats – whose long standing motifs conveying discontent with self-serving and deceptive governments drives home the idea of a brainwashed society in it’s endless repetition and all of its manifestations.
While it is refreshing to see the world of street art making an impact in far flung places that previously seemed to have very little appreciation for what was, and still is, deemed ‘vandalism’ it is perhaps a reflection of a shift in attitudes amongst Hong Kongers. On the one hand we now seem to have more commissioned art projects cropping up in districts like Sai Ying Pun and while that is in no way comparable to the underground, high-risk landscape of street art and its roots, it is a start in bringing about a different angle on the subject. For an artist like Banksy, who is the epitome of an renegade, it would be fair to say the manner in which he has infiltrated the art world, across the globe, will keep him laughing for a good while longer.