The Art of Banksy
The Art of Banksy, "Girl with Balloon" Trio Edition; Credit: Kyle Flubacker

Through August: The Art of Banksy at 709 7th St. NW

One of the greatest debates overheard at The Art of Banksy traveling exhibit, associate producer Marieke Groot says, involves the infamous street artist’s equally infamous work, “Girl and Balloon.” Sure, onlookers wonder about Banksy’s mysterious identity and whether one of the prints on view might spontaneously combust into a septillion pieces of glitter, a stunt worthy of the prank master-cum-political artist who, in 2018, instigated the surprise shredding of one of his works mid-auction. (Verdict: unlikely, as the exhibit is technically “unauthorized,” bearing no formal associations with the artist.) So, yes, of all the thought-provoking demonstrations on the walls (delirious Mickey Mouse holding hands with a crying youth, for example, or the Madonna and Child thrust into modernity with the addition of a toxic baby bottle), it’s one question about the windswept girl and her free-floating, heart-shaped balloon that makes people consider life’s existential quandaries. It’s always, Groot says of the girl and her balloon: “Is she reaching for it? Or is she letting go?” The answer is left to the viewer. After a brief timeline of the artist’s decades-long career and an explanation of the stenciling and printing processes, the 100-some pieces ($35 million worth of art, though surely the notorious anti-capitalist isn’t counting) are left on the walls, largely unadorned. It’s the largest collection of Banksy’s authenticated works ever to be assembled under the same roof (which, in this case, is the former Bed, Bath & Beyond in Chinatown). “It’s just for everybody to make of it what they want,” Groot says of the exhibit’s design. “We’re not trying to steer. We just give information. We let people make up their own minds.” The Art of Banksy exhibit runs through Aug. 21 at 709 7th St. NW. $35. —Emma Francois

Friday: Near Northeast Final Show at Songbryd

Near Northeast at Porchfest; Credit: Mark Caicedo/PuraVida Photography

All good things must come to an end, and on July 1, D.C.’s experimental indie folk group Near Northeast will play their farewell show and say goodbye to the city that supported their 7-year run. Oh He Dead and Rosie Cima will support. Read our full interview with the band in advance of the show. The show starts at 7 p.m. at Songbyrd, 540 Penn St. NE. $15–$18. —Simone Goldstone

Sunday: Pretty Bitter at Pie Shop

Pretty Bitter; Courtesy of Pretty Bitter

Pretty Bitter, a local synth-pop band with a touch of queerness, take a whimsical route to identify their sound. Their bio is full of descriptors such as “a psychedelic synth pop gumball machine” and “the last night of July and there’s fireworks and you’re screaming happy at the sky and blissful glitter is spilling as you’re making out in the backseat on a long, long drive.” But the one that sticks out to me, even beyond the glitter and the makeouts, is “Pretty Bitter is music for finding yourself.” It’s enough to take you on an existentialist train-of-thought ride, but really, isn’t that what all music, at its best, does so well? Sometimes it clicks before the opening track has faded, this music is speaking to you, guiding you, holding you. The first track on Pretty Bitter’s new album, Hinges released on June 24, does exactly that. “She’s Pure Astral Light (Or So She Says)” is reminiscent of summer love and young heartbreak. It’s the type of song you want to play loudly when you’re driving alone at night. There’s another long description for you, but maybe that’s because Pretty Bitter mix synthy pop with remnants of aughts indie rock and a splash of pop punk; combining startlingly pretty beats and long instrumental breaks with lyrics that are equally witty—“Won’t stop telling me I need to smoke more weed”—and gutting—“Go/ If you want to/ You can go/ No one will stop you.” In a way, listening to it makes you feel like a teenager on summer vacation again. The rest of the album has that same undeniably guttural draw that makes you want to listen to it on repeat and dance around in your bedroom while the windows are open. Luckily Pretty Bitter are giving us not one but two chances to dance to Hinges this weekend: celebrating their record release at Comet Ping Pong on July 1 and opening for Pittsburgh’s The Zells on July 3 at Pie Shop. Friday’s show starts at 10 p.m. on July 1 at Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW. $15. Sunday’s show starts at 8 p.m. at Pie Shop, 1339 H St. NE. $12–$15. —Sarah Marloff

Through September: Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition at the National Building Museum 

Using a HistoPad, a visitor views the Coronation of Napoleon in 3D in the Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition at the National Building Museum; Credit Histovery

The physical footprint of the National Building Museum’s exhibit on Notre-Dame Cathedral is small, but when you use the provided iPad-like device known as a HistoPad, your ability to perceive the Parisian landmark becomes virtually limitless. The exhibit covers more than eight centuries, from 1163, when construction began, through the devastating fire of April 15, 2019, as well as the subsequent, and still ongoing, rebuilding effort. When visitors point the HistoPad at one of 21 QR code-style targets, the scene they’ll see is a 360-degree rendering of a portion of the cathedral and its surroundings; they can click on various facets of the image to learn more, and they can drag the scene forward and backward into time. In essence, the HistoPad is a four-dimensional choose-your-own-adventure tool. Naturally, for the National Building Museum, the exhibit dwells on the details of the construction process, the overall architectural design, and the post-fire recovery process. But some of the most compelling forays involve the building’s history, including the marriage of Henri IV in 1572, which was designed to head off religious strife but failed, leading to a massacre; the post-French Revolution period, when the cathedral was stripped of its religious role (and many of its artistic treasures) and renamed the Temple of Reason; and the coronation of Napoleon. The exhibit simultaneously pushes the boundaries of what museums can communicate and shrinks the distance between the real and the digital. Be careful, though: In your effort to zoom in on a gargoyle via your HistoPad, be sure you don’t knock into a fellow visitor who’s doing the same. Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition runs through Sept. 26 at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $7–$10. —Louis Jacobson