Street artist DSIDE unmasks for gallery debut

Wellington-based artist DSIDE is stepping out of the streets and into a gallery for the first time ever.

He's always preferred to stay anonymous but for his show, he's speaking up for those who don't have a voice - extinct animals.

"It's a realm that can't really talk about itself, and if I can translate it into a language people can learn and understand that's what I try to do," he told Newshub.

For more than a decade his often provocative works have adorned walls throughout New Zealand and countries as far as the US, Canada, and Indonesia.

He says provoking discussion was more important than staying hidden.

"Being anonymous in the public realm can be beneficial, because it makes it just about the work. But for this type of work if I try to stay anonymous about it, it can put an undertone of like "why is he staying anonymous about it, is there something else going on?" he said.

Titled 'Extincted', it builds on the environmental messages in DSIDE's street art, such as banning shark finning or bringing attention to melting ice caps.

"It's not really about me, it's about the work and it's about the stuff I'm talking about. So if I need to stand up in front of my work to say these things then I'm happy to do it," he said.

Many of his pieces are about animals that have become extinct or are facing extinction - because of humans.

To prove just how real the threat of extinction is, his painting on the side of the gallery of Sudan, the last male Northern white rhino ended up, unintentionally, becoming a memorial.

"I was doing a work about him, about being the last one, and during that time, he passed away. So the work kind of overlaps itself."

He's always preferred painting on walls (many, fittingly, no longer standing), but he wanted to bring the discussions his art has created over the years into a single time and space.

"There's some important things going on at the moment, and I wanted to utilise the gallery's ability to bring it into one place," he said.

And true to the extinction theme, the show is on for one night only, at the private and illusive McKlouski and Bouw gallery in Te Aro.

"Yes, it's a big part of it. It's your only chance, and then it's gone," he said.

He's also not sure how much longer he'll stay in Wellington - so it could be his sign-off. Though he's said the gallery show is a one-off, he's not ruling out more shows elsewhere if 'Extincted' gets a good turnout.