“Banksy May 2016,” said flyers all over Nashville, with the image of a rat in a beret on them. And so the buzz began.
Over the last two months in Nashville, the work of elusive street artist known as Banksy has been on display in downtown Nashville as part of the Nashville Walls Project. Additionally—and thanks in large part to Gibson—Nashville is benefiting from the works of several of the world’s most prolific and acclaimed street artists at Tinney Contemporary through the project and in the documentary film, “Saving Banksy,” that premiered at the Nashville Film Festival.
The work of mural artists participating in the Nashville Walls Project can be seen at several locations including First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, as part of the “intersection of sports, entertainment, music and business” as Eva Boros—who works onsite with the artists of the Walls Project—described it.
Meanwhile, front and center inside Tinney Contemporary is the “Haight Street Rat,” the seven-foot tall beret-wearing rat that is one of Banksy’s most famous street paintings. Additionally, the works of artists who have extensive experience painting murals and have been exhibiting in galleries and museums around the world are available for viewing in Tinney’s “Brick to Canvas— A Survey of International Street Art.” The exhibition is curated by the founders of the Nashville Walls Project, Tova Lobatz and Brian Greif.
“A MURAL IS MUCH BETTER THAN A BLANK WALL”: Excerpts from Sports & Entertainment Nashville’s interviews with Greif and Susan Tinney.
Brian Greif (co-curator and producer of the documentary, “Saving Banksy”):
How did you become interested in contemporary street art?
I always liked the work of the first true “street artists”—Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Living in San Francisco around 2008 when the new street art superstars were around and available gave me an opportunity to meet and interact with some amazing artists in this genre.
For those who don’t know of Banksy or know much about his work, what would you offer as a point of introduction to his work?
Banksy is the world’s most famous anonymous artist. He creates art without the permission of building owners, city officials, galleries or the traditional art world. He is important because what he does has engaged millions of people around the in art. His illegal public works are shared by millions on social media.
What would be the consideration for accepting—or at least approaching—the work of Banksy and his contemporaries?
Most street artist rarely do illegal work now. . . . The artists we are featuring at the Tinney exhibit have been shown in major galleries in Berlin, London, New York, L.A., Miami, Hong Kong and Sydney. The artists are now paid substantial commissions to do public murals. They used to paint illegally so people could see their skill and the beauty of their work. Now they don’t have to paint illegally because their work is in such high demand. One of the artists in “Saving Banksy,” Ben Eine, has done work for Louis Vuitton. President Obama owns an original Ben Eine piece. We have two original paintings by Ben in the Tinney show. [Also], a mural is much better than a blank wall.
Susan Tinney (owner, Tinney Contemporary):
How does bringing Banksy’s “Haight Street Rat” to Tinney Contemporary fit into the body of work that you as a gallery owner in Nashville want to offer art enthusiasts and art collectors?
Tinney Contemporary introduce[s] interesting and sometimes challenging work to our customers. We felt like we had a great opportunity in raising the awareness of the vitality of street art to Nashville. Most people have never seen a Banksy [or] the work of the world’s most iconic street artists in person.
What do you think the exhibit at Tinney Contemporary and the murals in the area add to the vitality of downtown Nashville at this time of explosive growth/development?
When the murals started going up in the downtown . . . there were street art tailgate parties in the parking lots as the artists, on boom lifts, began creating their work. Demographically, there has been almost universal joy in seeing these works add beauty to the otherwise less-than-beautiful buildings . . . Most people aren’t aware that the way that these street artists make a living is by creating work that people can actually own. This is where the gallery intersected with the Nashville Walls Project. We have been displaying/selling the work of many of the internationally renowned street artists who created the murals in Nashville.
The public will be able to see the exhibit at Tinney for free through July 23. For more information, visit Tinney’s official website or the Nashville Walls Project. The Franklin Theatre is screening “Saving Banksy” for free at 9:30 p.m. this Friday, July 1. Boros, who co-wrote the film’s script, will be on hand along with the artist known as Above.