By Lisa Petrillo

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new exhibition called “The Art of Banksy” opens in Miami this weekend.

It is the U.S. premiere of the exhibit and it is the largest ever exhibition of Banksy’s works displaying 80 original works by the intriguing, elusive, and most talked about street artist in modern history.

The Bristol born artist’s former agent and personal photographer of 12 years, Steve Lazarides, curated it.

When Steve was commissioned to photograph Banksy back in 1997, it was imperative that no one would actually see him, so all of the photos of him are blurred or disguised.

“He could be walking right here and we’d never know it,” said Steve. “He’s not known to anyone really. He’s always been secretive from the very beginning and I think people think it was this big self-promotion campaign where it wasn’t. It was self-preservation in the beginning because he was prolific and kept himself underground so he didn’t get arrested.”

Bansky is recognized as a political activist. His graffiti-influenced stencil technique, sometimes with irreverent slogans, always generate attention.

The piece called the ‘Balloon Girl’ is arguably the most iconic.

“He did these all over London. Then it got made into screen prints and then he made a canvas of it. The image is recognized worldwide,” Steve explained.

Equally famous is the ‘Flower Thrower.’

The Flower Thrower is the cover of his book, which at last count, sold as many as 1.75 million copies,” said Steve.

Steve says Banksy never started out with money as his goal. His art was meant for the public to enjoy.

“Originally these screen prints sold for 50 bucks. The ‘Balloon Girl’ is now 175K, that’s the print!” said Steve.

The art world went berserk in early October when a canvas of that image, which was auctioned off for $1.3 million at Sotheby’s, shredded in front of a live audience.  The event caused much speculation and debate.

“I kind of know where he was coming from. He was trying to thumb his nose at the art world and the prices and how crazy it was. All he did was double his prices in the end! But, I still think it was one of the finest bits of performance art I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Nothing in the 20 thousand square foot warehouse is for sale. All of it, from photographs to canvases, sculptures, screen-prints and more have all come from collectors.

This a rare opportunity to see this wide spread collection of thought provoking art.

When asked what he thinks Banksy’s biggest contribution to the world of art is, he replied, “I think he helped the general public feel like they could like art without being intimidated. I think he introduced a whole generation of people both to the world of art and to collecting art, that they thought they could be collectors,” he said.

The Art of Bansky is on at Magic City Studios in Little Haiti, December 1 through February 29.

Click here for more information.

Lisa Petrillo

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