When people think of street art, the name synonymous with the movement is “Banksy” – the elusive Brit whose works have appeared from New York to London to the war zones of the Middle East. Now the Oi YOU! exhibit, part of the Paradox Street Art Festival, will showcase 22 of his works alongside art from national and international street artists, creating an exhibit of dizzying scope, colour and expression.
The Oi YOU! collection owner, George Shaw, has been a passionate collector of street art for 12 years, first stumbling upon the name Banksy at a party in 2005 – an introduction which saw him and his wife, Shannon Webster, begin to track down Banksy prints to hang on their walls.
“It started as an interest, turned into a passion and quickly became an obsession,” says George.
And it didn’t stop with Banksy. George and Shannon have put together a collection of street art featuring artists from all over the globe; a collection which has taken over the Tauranga Art Gallery in its entirety – and is free for all to enjoy.
“We wouldn’t put this collection here if there was a charge. We feel we have a responsibility to Banksy and to street artists all over the world, and while we know the Banksy collection will draw people in, they will also see the installations by (NZ artists) Jacob Yikes or Askew One when they first walk in the door. We want people to broaden their knowledge of what street art is about.”
Askew One is a New Zealand born street artist now based in Brooklyn, New York. Visitors to the exhibition will be instantly introduced to him when they encounter his floor-to-ceiling painting, an arresting, detailed portrait layered with bold colours and typography.
Like many street artists, Askew One is self-taught, something that adds to the appeal of these works, says George.
“This is one of the great things about street art – it’s accessible to everyone. There’s no barriers, no boundaries to making this kind of art, whereas in the traditional art world you have to wait for someone in their ivory tower to say ‘this is the chosen one’. With street art you can progress if you work hard, develop your talent and build your reputation.”
Adam Neate, another self-taught artist, also features in the OiYou! Collection. Neate starting by putting his work – paintings on recycled cardboard – around the streets , in shop doorways or alleys for people to find and keep if they wanted to. “He was just producing art for the love of producing it,” comments George. Now Neate’s art has gained global interest and acclaim, with celebrities and major collectors clambering to own his original works.
(In fact, celebrity tales shadow the whole collection – there is an Antony Micallef piece which George outbid Jude Law for; pieces by Paul Insect whose entire “Bullion” exhibit was purchased by Damian Hirst; and of course the Banksy works, of which Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Chris Martin, Bono and Kate Moss are fans.)
Other artists of interest include the exceptional David Choe (who painted the walls of the first Facebook office in exchange for shares instead of cash) and Judith Supine who didn’t speak until he was 17, but his modern, mixed media pieces leave a jarring impression of a voice that demands attention.
Upstairs in the gallery is an arresting 3D glass installation by Sofles and a large-scale painting by Lucy McLauchlan, whose flowing, black and white pieces work in both gallery and outdoor settings.
“When you watch Lucy work, she’s like a ballerina,” says George. “She will practice her moves half a dozen times before she commits to painting. Then if it’s not right, she’ll paint over it and start again.”
The collection also features works from Melbourne-based Rone, whose ghostly, sublime portraits of women’s faces in derelict buildings will be shown to visitors via 360 virtual reality goggles.
Such a diverse exhibition should encourage people to bring their whole family, something wholeheartedly supported by George.
“Forget the reverential, pristineness of a traditional art gallery. We say don’t turn your mobile phone off when you come in, turn it up. We want kids running around and enjoying themselves.”
“We expect a broad range of people, from kids, to youth right through to octogenarians. It’s not about how old you are, it’s about where your head is at.”
Street art, then, truly is by the people for the people and everyone should get along to see this lively, brilliant collection.
The OiYOU exhibit will be on display at the Tauranga Art Gallery until 15 June and will be complemented by seven murals going up on the city’s walls.
Loretta Crawford is a writer, reviewer and arts enthusiast. Her first book The Horse & the Hurricane King is a story for primary school aged children on how to manage anger through breathing and meditation. You can follow Loretta on her Twitter page @clumsydolly or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee Switzer: Images in the above article by Lee Switzer. Lee is a photographer, archival photographer, writer and poet. Numerous examples of all aspects of Lee’s work can be found in the ARTbop archives. Lee is currently collating a photo essay of the exhibition and launch of Paradox.
More photos by Lee Switzer at http://tauranga.kete.net.nz/en/tauranga_city_libraries_history/topics/show/2538-article-index-lee-switze