34 Fine Art is currently hosting an Urban Contemporary group exhibition entitled ‘Outside’, featuring many of the world’s most famous street artists such as Banksy (UK), Blek le Rat (FRANCE), Shepard Fairey (USA), Invader (FRANCE) and others. Gallery owners Fred and Andries say this is their most popular exhibition yet, drawing crowds of up to 250 people a day to their intimate gallery in Buchanan square in Woodstock and receiving a great deal of press coverage.
The first thing I thought when I heard about the exhibition is that street art belongs in the street- so how do you exhibit this in a gallery? The truth is that street art has developed into a multifaceted ‘movement’, flourishing on the nervous energy of graffiti and stencilling, spray-can art, skateboard culture, hip music and urban fashion. Urban Art in its truest form is mostly unsanctioned and communicates with ordinary people, where the works comment on socio-political issues. Many artists use this as a form of peaceful protest to convey a message regarding certain issues affecting their communities. But nowadays it’s not just about the edgy and unlawfull stuff; since the works have such a large influence on popular culture and are such hot property, many street artists now make and sell limited edition prints for galleries.
Gallery owners Andries and Fred have been buying up works for the exhibition since June, and some of the works are on consignment from the artists. Interestingly enough, many of the prints are fairly inexpensive when sold by the artists, but the editions are so limited that they soon become hot property; for example the Banksy print on view is from a print run of only 25. The works on show range in price from R4500 – R350 000, and 16 of the works have been sold.
Quite a few of the works in the current show are from the controversial and prolific artist Mr. Brainwash. Mr. Brainwash is the Frenchman Thierry Guetta, and when he became interested in the street art movement he started filming a documentary about it, becoming the first person to film the elusive artist Banksy. Eventually Banksy and others cottoned on to the fact that he wasn’t really a filmmaker, and turned the cameras on him, producing the Oscar nominated film ‘Exit throught the gift shop’ which ironically made Mr. Brainwash even more famous. (See the trailer here). Now he is possibly the most succesful (financially) of the street artists, although he is really more of a pop artist, and his work is produced largely by others and (I feel) is very unoriginal. To be fair, this is the way much of contemporary art nowadays is produced, although Andries mentioned that it is likely that Banksy does most of his work himself, as he keeps such a low public profile.
There is also some work from local urban artists such as Faith 47 and Black Koki on view. The fact that Woodstock, Salt River, Observatory and the informal settlements are the urban art hotspots in Cape Town makes this area a popular place for artists to live and have their studios, and the perfect place to have this exhibition.
The exhibition closes November 19, and if you still need any convincing to go and see it, consider this quote from the Cape Times 8 November:
“So, whether you are a collector, an investor wanting to buy a Mr. Brainwash in case it turns out to be a Banksy, into conspiracy theories, or simply curious as to what the fuss is all about, here’s a chance to see the real McCoy within the safety of a gallery. All, without having to buy a plane ticket and lose shoe leather walking those gritty streets.”