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In the rich, 40-year history of Hip-Hop, there are four distinct, essential pillars of the culture, the celebrated "Four Elements" – DJing, Rap, Breakdancing, and Graffiti. As each of these art forms matured in its own way, like diverging streams from a great river, they found different milieus and took on different audiences. Graffiti, in particular, got swept up in the global "Street Art" wave of the 2000s, when this work many still considered vandalism eventually turned up in museums and in the tony art collections of the one percenters. But it's crucial to remember graffiti's origins and central purpose of providing a voice to the voiceless, a platform for communication and expression for disenfranchised outsiders. In the famous and still apropos words of Marshall McLuhan, "the medium is the message;" the sheer act of these rogue artists working in dark alleys and trainyards, using public walls and structures for their canvases, was sending a message to The Man: "you don't control me."    

As Street Art (or "Urban Contemporary Art" to use the more high-brow euphemism) snowballed into a pop cultural avalanche, one notorious figure emerged from the shadows to delight and bemuse the entire world: the artist known as Banksy

Although Banksy remains anonymous, he is believed to have been born in Bristol, in Southwest England, in 1974. Taking inspiration from the Bristol Underground Scene, his distinctive style, which combines stencil and graffiti writing, developed out of a need to quickly and discreetly create large-scale works. His media ranges from murals, sculpture, installation, painting on canvas and screen-prints to large installations (and even the occasional livestock). Since the late 1990s, he has become one of the most discussed, debated and acclaimed cultural figures of our age. Like a comic book superhero (or perhaps supervillain) he surreptitiously strikes, leaving behind highly visible public works often featuring satirical social and political commentary. His pieces reveal a unique mix of humor and humanity; they are created for the masses and, like those seminal graffiti writers of the infant Hip-Hop movement, give a voice to those in and outside of society who would otherwise not be heard. Banksy continues to have a global influence on the urban art movement and remains one of its most vital artists, even receiving an Oscar nomination for his 2010 documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop."  

Now, an exhibition of career-spanning Banksy artworks, including original paintings, prints, sculptures and rare objects – many of which have never been seen before publically – will go on display for the first time in Rome’s prestigious Palazzo Cipolla museum from May 24 - September 4, 2016. The show, entitled War, Capitalism & Liberty, will feature an extensive body of work from private international collections and examine how social and political events are viewed through Banksy's irreverent prism of protest - from his black-and-white sandwich board-wearing monkeys declaring ‘Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge’ to the unsettling image of "Kids on Guns." 

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Conceived by Fondazione Terzo Pilastro - Italia e Mediterraneo, and curated by Stefano Antonelli, Francesca Mezzano and Acoris Andipa, War, Capitalism & Liberty is a non-profit exhibition and will feature a strong educational and youth-focused component with a scientific review of work by the artist. It marks the first time that the public will be able to see such a vast collection of Banksy's original work in one place. His anonymity and refusal to conform makes him nearly impossible to nail down and, thus, a survey of his work has never been officially or unofficially exhibited in a curated museum show for a public audience.  

Underscoring this point is the show’s co-curator Acoris Andipa, an active dealer in the Banksy market who has been responsible for procuring all the artworks for the show, mainly from his private collectors who have been buying Banksy artwork with his advice since 2006: “This is the largest collection of work by the artist known as Banksy, a corpus of over 120 works, including sculptures, stencils, and other artistic expressions, all strictly from private collectors and, therefore, absolutely not removed from the street. The work critically examines contemporary issues of war, consumerism and politics, and this is the first time a major collection of artwork by the artist, now considered the world’s best street artist, has been curated from private international collectors by an independent and important museum.” 

For more information on the exhibition, visit its website – and stay connected on socials using the hashtag #WarCapitalismLiberty.          

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