Banksy and Damian Hirst feature in new Suffolk art exhibition
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
An "international level" modern art exhibition including seven originals by Banksy is opening in Suffolk on Sunday, May 23.
Moments, which features more than 100 works by 23 of the world's best-known contemporary artists, would not be out of place in art capitals like London and New York, but happens to be in Bury St Edmunds, at Moyse's Hall Museum.
Organised in association with Brandler Galleries, featured artists in addition to Banksy include Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Kaws, Pure Evil, Connor Brothers, Blek le Rat, My Dog Sighs and Rachel List with both original artworks and prints.
While it is undoubtedly a disappointment that Banksy's Heart Boy has not made it to the show due to difficulties in displaying the heavy piece, amongst the highlights will be his Hula-Hooping Girl, which originally appeared on the side of a building in residential Nottingham.
The exhibition describes the mysterious Banksy, whose real identity is the subject of speculation, as "perhaps the most notorious artist of the last half a century".
Heritage officer Dan Clarke, who has been heavily involved in organising Moments, said Banksy's works could be "whimsical" - escapism in forlorn surroundings - but also anti-war, such as the famous piece Heavy Weaponry, which is included in the show.
Speaking of Moments, art dealer John Brandler, of Brandler Galleries, said: "I'm absolutely delighted with it. It's as good as any show I have seen anywhere - an international show that happens to be in Bury.
"Everything is perfect. They really have punched above their weight with this show."
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Essex-based Mr Brandler, who owns most of the pieces in the exhibition, said he had tried to bring a street art exhibition to Wales after purchasing a Banksy piece there called Season's Greetings - but he claimed the Welsh didn't want the show.
With the idea for the exhibition bubbling away in his head, he said he was put in touch with West Suffolk Council and they said "let's do it at Moyse's Hall".
It will be the most valuable exhibition the museum has ever staged, with a combined worth of millions of pounds.
Other pieces across the five display spaces include His Masterless Voice by French artist Blek le Rat - a precursor to Banksy - who Mr Clarke said used stencils as a speedy way to produce street art and not be caught by the police.
And the concept of street artists "creating a moment" in a short period of time is where the title for the show came from, Mr Clarke added.
Pieces by renowned West Yorkshire artist Rachel List are also in the exhibition, including her original NHS Angel painting for which she gained prominence during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Lucky ticketholders will be able to watch her in action as she creates a new piece at a sold-out event on Saturday, May 22. This new work will then feature as part of the exhibition and be kept on permanent display at Moyse's Hall.
Speaking of the exhibition taking place in the town, she said: "Street art is for the public. It's for the people to enjoy. It's about accessibility. I think that makes it more important to bring the work to small towns."
Mr Brandler, who is fond of Bury St Edmunds, added: "Why should good art only be shown in London, Manchester, Liverpool?"
The inclusion of pieces by less well-known artists like Swoon will introduce their work to people and be a "real treat," Mr Clarke said.
Speaking of the importance of the exhibition, Mr Clarke said: "I genuinely think this is of national significance. It's a collection that could have gone anywhere because of the names involved, but also because of the pieces involved."
Moments will be supplemented by a range of workshops and pop-up activities, as well as the live art demonstrations and private view evenings when artists will be talking to guests about their work. There will also be an art trail around the town using pizza boxes.
Mr Brandler said: "It's not just about the museum, but the whole town and that's why I wanted pieces on this around the town.
"I don't want people to just come to the museum, have a look and go home."
Mr Clarke hopes Banksy's Heart Boy will come to Bury St Edmunds in the future, perhaps as the centrepiece of an art trail in a couple of years time.
Jo Rayner, cabinet member for leisure, culture and community hubs at West Suffolk Council, said: “The Moments exhibition is a hugely culturally-significant event, which will attract significant cultural tourism to the town and provide a welcome and much-needed boost for local businesses, such as accommodation providers, bars, restaurants, cafés, retail and other arts and cultural organisations.”
The exhibition runs until September 30. Timed viewing slots of one hour must be pre-booked either online, in person at the Apex or by calling the Apex box office on 01284 758000.