Banksy art exhibition offers unique experience



“Banksy Was Here: The Exhibition” in Philadelphia helps uncover the journey of one of the most renowned but simultaneously elusive artists of our time: Banksy.

You may just walk past it; in fact, some people were asking us where the entrance was. You are opening a door into a mystery – the unknown. But walk inside “Banksy Was Here: The Exhibition” in Philadelphia and you can discover clues to uncovering the journey of one of the most renowned but simultaneously elusive artists of our time: Banksy.

Located at 901 Market Street, the immersive art exhibition is nestled in Center City’s Fashion District. The Banksy exhibition holds 80 original works combined with an array of elements like sculptures, photos, interactive art displays and information tracing Banksy’s life and impact on the world.

Banksy began his career in the 1990s as a graffiti artist in Bristol, contributing to speculation that he is a British artist. Growing in his career as a street artist, he has gained widespread fame for his satirical art that does not shy away from commenting on hard-hitting socio-political issues. We immediately recognized some of Banksy’s renowned works as we walked through the room called “The Great Gallery.”

Banksy has become renowned for his outspoken commentary. Thought-provoking words are placed throughout the exhibit to get a better insight into Banksy’s point of view.

This includes “Girl with Balloon,” which shows a girl reaching for a balloon that is in the shape of a heart. This piece of art has been utilized for various movements including the 2014 ‘Stand with Syria.’ This work was also well-known after a framed copy dating to 2006 began to automatically shred itself following it being auctioned live for £1,042,000 ($1,271,224.37). These works and more are explored in his exhibition in Philadelphia, home to its own collection of street art, thus making it the perfect home for Banksy’s works.

To introduce the artist, the exhibit took us into the recreation of Banksy’s art studio where his art comes to life. Fitted with colorful sprays and various uncompleted works, the chaotic nature of the studio gives viewers a glimpse into the artistic genius that is Banksy. Soon after, we entered an industrial themed room that was filled with rats. “The Rat Room” draws parallels between rats and graffiti artists, both of whom work concealed in the shadows, to the disdain and scorn of many members of the public.

Aside from Banksy’s art, viewers can learn about him through informational videos that are placed throughout the exhibit for a multimedia experience. For instance, we were first met with a hallway with graffiti on the sides as we went into a room blocked by only the fabric of a curtain. Inside, guests become immediately immersed with a 360-degree digital display to highlight Banksy’s works and are taken through a ride of curiosity.

A highlight of the exhibition is its focus on its interactivity. One example of this is the graffiti room with walls and props like telephone booths available for visitors to leave their mark.

The other highlights of the exhibition are the areas centered around interactivity. When learning about Banksy’s discovery of stencils, guests are invited to try their own hand at stencils with a chalk activity on a wall (be cautious: the chalk somewhat stains). This activity reaffirms the exhibition’s commitment to let the viewer learn about Banksy’s journey but also go on a journey of discovery – whether it is through art or finding a new perspective – themselves.

But the pinnacle of the exhibition is the graffiti room. After exploring the journey of Banksy and how he has used graffiti art to share his message, guests are once again invited to leave their own mark. You can take a sharpie and leave your permanent mark anonymously on the walls amidst trailing digits of pi, warnings that “this is a simulation,” creative drawings and inspiring quotes about life. What made the experience so remarkable for us was that as we began uncovering the mystery of Banksy’s identity, we learned that the person walking behind us, even one of us, could be Banksy.

The captivating yet incomprehensible story of who he is leaves viewers of the exhibition with a deeper appreciation of the stories that surround us every day, for the things not said, everything that will be left unknown.

When we finished going through the exhibit, we stepped out into the city again, but this time, with a keener understanding of art, advocacy, bravery and the power every individual has to leave a mark – some with spray cans in hand – on the world. We left with the lasting impression that to change the world, sometimes you yourself have to dare opening the door into the unknown.