Street artist, BLU, is native to the suburbs of Bologna. He’s placed murals all around the globe – some of which I’ve been fortunate to admire first-hand [Buenos Aires, Warsaw, Roma, Lisboa ← truth: this one was my husband’s sighting]. You can imagine my excitement to hit the streets and search out the numerous, large-scale murals on a recent trip to Bologna. I visited 4 of Blu’s pieces, one which had been standing since 2008 – others maybe longer!, and the next day they were all gone.
Museo della Storia di Bologna: Street Art: Banksy & Co. – L’Arte Allo Stato Urbano
The Museo della Storia di Bologna [Museum of the History of Bologna] will be hosting a street art exhibition starting March 18th which will run through June. Street Art: Banksy & Co. – L’Arte Allo Stato Urbano [The Art of the Urban State]. The show is the musings of a group of experts in the field of street art [??] and Professor Fabio Roversi-Monaco, who happens to be President of Genus Bononiae, the collective behind this retrospective. The curators of the show intend to ‘explain the cultural value and artistic interest of street art‘ from New York graff writers of the 70’s/80’s to present day global mural artists. And the exhibit invites visitors ‘to discover a new way to watch and relate to urban space‘. ‘How?’, you might ask. One way is by ‘tearing’ and ‘restoration’. Pieces from the streets, which otherwise would be destined for demolition [states a press release from the museum], will be ‘saved’ and restored and revealed at the Museo della Storia di Bologna to ‘initiate a reflection on the modalities of protection, conservation and museum display of these urban experiences’.
WHAT??!! So, you’re going to ask me to reflect on the cultural relevance of this urban movement by discussing stolen [let’s call it what it is] art?
The history of graffiti and murals is fueled by economic, political, and social inequalities. This exhibit is corporate funded [The Foundation of Bologna Savings Bank] and produced by the same man who I’ve read has been linked to the illegal Masonic Lodge ‘P2’, famous for murder and corruption, and has a history of repressing students and teachers during his term as Rector of the University of Bologna. Big money and power. Am I to believe this exhibit actually captures the significance of this art? Murals that have been stripped from their urban settings and into the gallery. Taking these pieces out of their ‘natural’ environment negates everything they are meant to challenge and express. No longer do they represent the disparities of the neighborhood or community for which they were created. No longer are they murals for everyone, generating dialogue with the ‘everyday’ person, but distorted into collections for the élite to dissect – sorry, ‘explain the cultural value and artistic interest’, requoting the Museo della Storia di Bologna press release again.
So what can we do? For starters, APPLAUD BLU. On the night of March 12th, the artist took away over 20 years’ worth of his work around Bologna. Two of his pieces have already been extracted for ‘The Art of the Urban State‘ show [mural of former Casaralta Officine (Untitled, 2006), facade of the former Officine Cevolani (Untitled, 2003)]. The museum justifies this pilfering as a preservation and transmission to posterity. But street art is transitory; victim to the elements, other artists, tags, and demolition. It’s not supposed to be ‘saved‘. And, even though it can be argued this art is no longer ‘owned by the artist’, it’s meant for public consumption without profit – your ticket to this exhibit will cost you €13, none of which will see its way to Blu’s bank account.
By buffing his own work, Blu’s statement is clear. And just in case it isn’t, a statement from his blog is: ‘In Bologna, there is no more Blu, and there will be no more while the tycoons eat. For acknowledgments or complaints, you know who to contact.’
You can show your solidarity with all the artists by choosing to not support this exhibit [or others like it!]. It represents the private accumulation by the privileged. As we see far too often [think Banksy – who is also on display at this show], work is taken from the streets into galleries or auctions and instantly mutated into a piece of prestige. We’re excluded from, or required to pay to appreciate, art that was originally meant for us to enjoy/discuss/hate in public, for free. Point being, it’s meant to provoke feelings because of the placement, the neighborhood, the message, the size. All of this is lost when we strip it of its settings and move it to the confines of a private room for the benefit of a few.
I ask if you find yourself in the Museo della Storia di Bologna, enjoy the other historical collections but leave the ‘street art’ exhibit to the streets [feel free to use my map!].