BALTIC Brings BANKSY & Urban Artists To The People Of Newcastle

By Richard Moss | 25 September 2006
a doctored photograph of a semi naked woman holding a mirror as a skeleton emerges over her left shoulder

Dr. Lakra, Untitled (mujer con espejo) 2006. © the artist, courtesy Kate MacGarry, London and Kurimanzutto, Mexico

Artworks from some of the world’s leading urban artists are set to pop up across the streets of NewcastleGateshead as part of BALTIC’s major new show Spank the Monkey.

The exhibition, which is the first major international overview of contemporary urban art, opens in the twin cities on Wednesday September 27 2006 and features 22 artists, including graffiti artist BANKSY.

Encompassing painting, sculpture, drawing, graphic design, installation, illustration and photography the displays are intended to evoke a distinctive and irreverent vision, which is informed as much by a range of contemporary themes including independent music, street culture, manga comics, skateboarding, politics and fashion, as by the conventions of the contemporary art world.

a poster showing a cartoon of a woman being embraced by a werewolf with the words there were no words there was only faile written across the top in bold red writing

FAILE, There were no words, 2006. Courtesy the artists

“The exhibition came about from discussions with my co-curator Pedro Alonzo three years ago about how there’s a new wave of art that doesn’t appear in traditional galleries,” said BALTIC director Peter Doroshenko. “A lot of artists go to university and get a degree and then go on to work in very non-traditional ways – ways that don’t include art galleries.”

As many of them operate beyond the traditional confines of the gallery world, the two curators have had to spend the last three years 'tracking down' artists to persuade them to take part in the exhibition.

“It took three and a half years of meeting them, contacting them, working through magazine articles and networks to get in touch with them,” said Peter. “We also had to go to California or Tokyo etcetera to meet them – you can’t just call a gallery and say ‘I want to work with one of your artists’ because most of them aren’t represented by galleries and a lot of them don’t want to show in traditional situations.”

a painting showing three hands raising weapons with roses in the barrels against a japanese sun

Shepard Fairey, Guns and Roses. Courtesy the artist

Work will be situated both inside the gallery and in key locations across the city. The BANKSY piece will be installed at a currently undisclosed location in central Newcastle whilst an Alien Mosaic by French artist Invader will appear at Gateshead Interchange.

Major billboard sites will be occupied by the work of Los Angeles based Shepard Fairey, widely known for his international OBEY campaigns, whilst the BALTIC galleries will host further examples of urban art, complemented by a half-pipe skate ramp and a banner by David Shrigley, which will be unveiled across the north face of the building.

With 40% of works sited at outdoor locations, the exhibition is set to reach thousands of unsuspecting people as they go about their daily routine. Urban art will also be appearing on billboards, buses and in metro stations.

an abstract painting showing faces and bodies against a bright yellow background

Neasden Control Centre, Sun-Ra Poster, 2006. Courtesy the artists.

“My philosophy is that we as curators should be getting art to the public,” added Peter. “Everybody’s so busy with school and with work and so on that they don’t necessarily have the time to come to the Baltic so this will take the art out to them.”

An innovative SMS campaign will help visitors who happen across the artworks to navigate to the next location, whilst a partnership with PlayStation® will see a cityscape of NewcastleGateshead quayside developed by artist duo Kozyndan during October and November.

“This is the first international exhibition that looks at this, and it’s also the first time BANKSY has shown his work in association with a gallery,” added Peter.

Spank the Monkey launches at BALTIC and at sites across NewcastleGateshead on September 27 2006 and runs until January 7 2007.

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