Love Art

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong Arts Centre

Apr 23-28, 10am to 8pm

British graffiti artist Banksy is to make his Asian debut at the Hong Kong Arts Centre next Wednesday.

Love Art, organised by Fabrik Contemporary Arts, is a 'guerilla exhibition' that will feature 25 of his stencil prints including policemen with smiley faces, rats with drills and monkeys with weapons of mass destruction.

Also on show are works by artists Robert Indiana, Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, Romero Britto and Mel Ramos. The exhibition will next move to Schoeni Art Gallery in Old Bailey Street.

The exhibition is divided into two themes - the influence of modern-day pop culture and street art. The influence of pop culture is explored through 30 contemporary works by the artists. Hirst's striking screenprinted Untitled Rocks shows alongside Indiana's colourful The Book of Love. Haring, who started out as a street artist in New York in the 1980s, will be represented by his bold graphic work Silence = Death.

Street art includes works by Banksy. 'We have doors and items [taken off the street] where he has put graffiti,' says Jurgen Abergas of Fabrik.

Getting Banksy's work to show in Hong Kong was a coup for the locally-based Fabrik and the result of its collaboration with the Helium Foundation, which helps clients to build a contemporary art collection.

The elusive Banksy doesn't have an agent and prefers to remain pseudo-anonymous. He first gained notoriety for painting graffiti on the streets of Bristol and then for his stencilled works in places such as the London Zoo and Trafalgar Square. His irreverent graffiti include the Mona Lisa holding a rocket launcher, a menacing-looking monkey, and Winston Churchill with a green Mohawk haircut. Regarded as potent street art by some, others see the graffiti as subversive vandalism.

He was regarded as a criminal in the early 1990s and even sought by the police, but his works are now respected and fetching high prices at auctions. 'He has become a bit of a street-artist icon,' says Abergas.

Banksy recently started to produce prints and canvases that are more accessible and available to a wider audience. On display is also a set of six screen prints, entitled Kate. Inspired by Andy Warhol's iconic candy-coloured screen prints, Marilyn Monroe, Banksy's work replaces the actress with present-day celebrity Kate Moss.

Abergas says he wants to introduce Banksy's works to a larger audience and give the public an opportunity to see these original pieces.

'A small niche of people here know about Banksy and his works. We are trying to widen the appreciation for graffiti and street art,' says Abergas.

The gallery says presenting Love Art as a guerilla exhibition suits the nature of the event.

'We believe the best way to present street art is not in one static space, but to move it from place to place. It is a good way to give the general public a sense that art can be mobile,' says Abergas.

Love Art, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Apr 29-May 10, then Schoeni Gallery, Old Bailey Street, Central.

Inquiries: 2525 4911