A video posted to Banksy’s Instagram account suggests the secretive British artist tried to crash the 2019 Venice Biennale, setting up a stall to sell his wares in the city of canals. (Due to the guerilla nature of his work, an Instagram post or acknowledgement on his website is considered a marker of an authentic Banksy project.)
The video shows the street artist (or one of his agents) setting up a stall in what appears to be the city’s famous Piazza San Marco, then displaying a nine-panel painting on it accompanied with a sign reading “Venice in Oil.” The painting depicts a massive cruise ship passing through Venice, towering over the city and upturning gondolas, with the famous Rialto bridge and the belltower of St Mark’s Basilica in the background.
“Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale,” reads the caption to Banksy’s post. “Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.”
The painting alludes to the controversies surrounding the cruise ships and overtourism plaguing Venice, a particularly difficult subject considering tourism is a major pillar of the city’s economy. Banksy’s instagram video culminates in his being told to leave the premises for lack of a permit, and as he wheels his cart away we see a cruise ship not unlike the one he painted looming in the canal behind him. (Banksy is also believed to be behind a mural depicting a child who appears to be a refugee, which recently turned up in Venice, but has not claimed responsibility for it on his website or Instagram account.)
The surreptitious selling stall is reminiscent of another stunt Banksy pulled, during his 2013 “residency” in New York City, when one of his collaborators set up a stand just outside Central Park offering authentic prints for $60 apiece. Only three people bought the prints during the hours the stall was up; one of the lucky buyers subsequently sent her two prints to auction at Bonhams, where they brought a total of £125,000 (about $158,000).