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Why has an exhibition of Banksy replicas popped up in Russia?

origin 1Wearing a neck brace, a rhythmic gymnast performs a new Banksy piece painted on the wall of a residential building in Irpin, Ukraine ©Maxym MarusenkoNur PhotoGetty Images

A collection of Banksy replicas has been exhibited in Russia, despite the political opposition of the anonymous artist.

The St. Petersburg exhibit contains 150 replicas of Banksy’s work and has quickly become one of the most visited venues in the city.

The collection is a transfer from the Moscow exhibition “To Find Banksy” which was staged before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The organizers stressed that they did not want to focus on politics.

But trying to keep anonymous street artist Bansky apolitical is crazy. All the more so for an unauthorized exhibition of replicas taking place in a country he is actively fighting against.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Banksy has highlighted the plight of the Ukrainian people. Just this month, she facilitated an auction of 50 screen prints to raise money for a charity that helps civilians affected by the conflict. The auction was cyber attacked by russian IP addresses.

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The exhibition in St. Petersburg includes life-size sculptures and entire rooms recreated with replicas of Banksy’s iconic graffiti. None of the artwork Banksy made in Ukraine is present.

“I even wondered if his latest works against the special military operation would be here. I think it would be fair to ask whether we need all of this to think about it. Banksy suggests many things to us, especially in the new works he has created. I even think that his new works are missing here. They could have been added,” says visitor Kirill Kovalev.

“To be honest, I don’t draw any parallels between political views and art. I think it should be distinct. Therefore, it is his choice (to speak out against the special military operation in Ukraine),” says Maria Potapova, another visitor.

origin 1A woman takes a selfie at an artwork created by British street artist Banksy on a building destroyed by the Russian army in Borodyanka, Kiev region, UkraineAP Photo

Banksy has already condemned an unofficial exhibition of royal works in Moscow in 2018. The unofficial “Banksy” exhibition opened at the Central House of Artist Museum in Moscow, but has since moved across Russia, Spain, Portugal, the United States and Hong Kong.

Over three million people viewed the unauthorized exhibit.

“What the hell is that?” Banksy wrote in a text exchange when she found out.

Banksy responded to the 2018 exhibit in typical fashion, only posting the exchange of messages.

“You know it has nothing to do with me right? I don’t charge people to see my art unless there is a funfair wheel,” she wrote, referring to her 2015 Dismaland exhibition, a parody of Disneyland, UK.

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As much as he was against the exhibit, he took no further action as he explains, “Hmm, I’m not sure I’m the best person to complain about people posting photos without getting permission.”

Banksy has allowed some of his work into Russia more recently. In 2021 he authorized the auction of eight works including a print of ‘Love is in the Air’ and pieces from the Dismaland theme park.

Auctioned at the Tver City Museum and Exhibition Center northwest of Moscow, the museum’s Elizaveta Maksimova told reporters: “There are certificates for the exhibits proving they are genuine and signed by Banksy.”

Check out the video above for footage from the St. Petersburg exhibit.