So who won? I would have to say Banksy. But it would be on a points decision, not a knock-down.
Warhol, unfortunately I think, suffers from over-exposure, and now that every other printshop will pop-art your photographs, some of the impact of his work is lost. What was revolutionary in the sixties is commonplace now and its hard to recapture that excitement. I saw all of his Campbell’s soup cans grouped together at MoMa in New York a couple of years back which was impressive and his non-portrait paintings (Electric Chair and the ‘Death and Disaster’ series) can still set the pulse racing. But there wasn’t any of these at this show.
There were a few charcoal sketches of the soup cans, hung next to Banksy’s “Tesco Value Soup” parody, but they weren’t as interesting as the finished versions en masse that I’d already seen. Similarly, Warhol’s portraits of the Queen seemed too reverential in comparison with Banksy’s Queen picture with the Queen as a chimp in front of a garish Union Jack.
But then without Warhol, would there be a Banksy? A lot of the pieces here (the soup cans, the Kate Moss as Marilyn) are deliberating referencing Warhol, but that aside, Warhol (and other Pop Artists) brought about huge changes in the art world, without which I doubt Banksy’s work would be hung in a gallery today.
Before today, I’d never seen a Banksy other than in photographs so it was good to see them in real life, especially the huge Churchill with a Mohican painting. But then I wonder really whether his work is meant to be in a gallery? I love art galleries – the actual spaces with their cool white walls – I find them calming regardless of what the art on show is, and that to me seem to run contrary to Banksy’s cachet as a guerrilla artist. One piece in particular, a metal door, with the words ‘Designated Picnic Area’ daubed on it, lost some meaning relocated to a gallery wall.
All in all though I enjoyed – definitely worth seeing and good to kick-start the day with some cultural thinking.