Banksy on Over Tourism in Venice

Venice in Oil | Banksy | 2019

Venice in Oil | Banksy | 2019

Over tourism in Venice has caused serious issues within the infamous Italian city. The amount of people that come into Venice for daily visits and weekly trips greatly outnumbers the number of people that actually call themselves residents. Tourists often flock to the big monuments causing a huge concentration of people in single areas of the city. The severe concentration of people has caused issues for the fragile infrastructure of the city. Not only has over tourism become detrimental for the infrastructure, but it has not provided any beneficial results economically.

In recent news, the shadowy artist, Banksy, has chosen the issue of over tourism in Venice as a topic of interest for one of his latest artistic stunts. The Venice Biennale of 2019 is currently in session until the end of November and is showcasing some of the most prestigious contemporary artists of today. A Biennale is an art exhibition which occurs every other year and is an event shared by many other big cities internationally. At the Venice Biennale, Banksy decided to show up uninvited and set up a stall with an assortment of paintings he likes to call Venice in Oil. As depicted in the image above, Venice in Oil comes together to illustrate the image of a large cruise ship accompanied by a man sitting nearby, cloaked by a newspaper which hints at the anonymity of the artist himself.

Banksy had posted a video of this installment on his official Instagram account and shows how the stall was removed from the Venice Biennale because of a lack of proper permit to show within the exhibition. The artist reveals that he has never received a formal invitation to participate in this event even though he is one of the biggest artists to mark this contemporary generation of art. The whole act that he performs in setting up an impermissible stall acts as a comment on the exclusivity of the Biennale and the high art world in general. The art market has become so exclusive with the high dollar prices that people will throw at art that it has strayed far away from the public and become an indulgence for the more private elite.

Girl With Balloon | Banksy | Shredded in 2018

Girl With Balloon | Banksy | Shredded in 2018

With Banksy’s artwork, he presents inclusivity that allows his art to be obtainable and enjoyed by people from all over and from all socio-economic backgrounds. His company sells stencils and merchandise that are at a price that the average person is able to own a piece of his art. While he does have merchandise that is obtainable by the public, he also has sold art within the art market for millions of dollars. As some of you may know, Banksy performed a renowned spectacle at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018 which also displayed a fascinating commentary on the art market. A piece by Banksy, titled Girl With Balloon was on auction in 2018 and sold for $1.4 million dollars. Upon being sold, the artist did the unheard of and caused the piece to be destroyed. The frame of the artwork was equipped with an internal shredder which was set to destroy the painting upon its sale. The audience of the auction hall, as well as art lover’s internationally, were astounded by the bold act. The act of shredding caused viewers to question the art market and what is actually being bought when someone forks over large sums of money towards art objects. Honestly, I love this stunt and I think it gives a new value to the piece altogether. Not particularly a monetary value, but a value towards art in culture.

The staging of Venice in Oil at the Venice Biennale allowed for attention to be drawn to the issue of over tourism starting with one of the largest components to the epidemic; cruise ships. Cruise ships are not only bad because they take away from tourists adding money into overnight stays within the city, but they are very harmful to the cities infrastructure. The city of Venice has a canal that goes through the heart of the city and the water can often cause issues for the buildings surrounding it. I want to think that Banksy wanted to bring attention to this issue in the same way to how he brings attention to the art market. He makes it known the subject of interest for both of these developments is money. With tourism and cruise ships, the focus may be more greatly on collecting money in the moment rather than preserving the monuments that bring tourists to these attractions for the future.

What is your opinion on the high dollar value of the art market? Do you think there should be changes made to inhibit detrimental tourism?