Banksy Art Exhibition Bristol
13th June - 31st August 2009
City Museum and Art Gallery
King of the spraycan - Banksy - is staging an official exhibition in the city where it all started. It's his largest show to date and, as you'd expect for a Banksy art exhibition, Bristol is coming to a standstill as everyone makes their way to the Bristol City Museum.
You may think it's a bit bizarre that the council are funding a Banksy art exhibition. Bristol is already covered in his colourful political commentary. However, his latest exhibition titled Banksy v Bristol Museum is his largest to date with more than 100 pieces on show, 70 of which are new. And, if he's bothered to spend the time putting together an exhibition inside a museum when he could just air his views on the side of a building, you know that it's going to be worth a visit.
Even though this is an official exhibition because it's Banksy everyone involved has been extremely secretive about the project and news was only released a day before it opened. And despite being such an influential artist, Banksy has managed to maintain his anonymity. He is alleged to have helped to set up many of the exhibits for the Banksy art exhibition Bristol now has the pleasure of admiring but apparently many of the staff at the Bristol City Museum were unaware he was there, let alone which member of the crew he was.
All Encompassing Exhibition
If his other exhibitions are anything to go by, with the latest Banksy art exhibition Bristol should be prepared for a few surprises. For starters, all three storeys of the City Museum and Art Gallery have been incorporated into this exhibition. He's renowned for infiltrating his own work into famous museum exhibits and he's done it this time with his usual tongue-in-cheek manner. Visitors will be greeted with the sight of a burnt out ice cream van which has replaced the museum's reception desk. A statue of a paedophile bishop sits alongside one of Turner's masterpieces and a replica Stonehenge made from portable toilets can be glimpsed through a fog of dry ice.
Although there's plenty of wry humour, Banksy has interspersed the collection with his trademark political comment. One of the major pieces of the show is a 12-foot wide portrait of the House of Commons filled with monkeys. A piece of zeitgeist if ever there was one. However, many of the pieces are so subtle that visitors will have to study the whole of the museum carefully to ensure they haven't missed anything. A cabinet filled with local pottery now also houses a used hash pipe. The life size historic biplane suspended from the ceiling has become the refuge for a Guantanamo Bay escapee. Unfortunately none of the work on display is for sale, but many of the pieces have never been seen before.
Crime of Passion
The last indoor exhibition Banksy staged in Bristol was in 2000, and he has gone on to hold shows in New York and Los Angeles with London exhibitions attracting queues down the street. Undoubtedly Banksy has brought Bristol's street art scene to the world stage, but it's probably in Bristol where he's had the biggest impact. Only recently the Royal West of England Academy held a street art exhibition called Crimes of Passion detailing the history of graffiti in Bristol and showcasing some of the city's most successful graffiti artists. There's little doubt with this new Banksy Art Exhibition Bristol artists will be even more inspired to pick up a spraycan and express themselves through street art.
Whilst he's Bristol's most famous artist, he does have his critics in the city. In the early Nineties when he started out the council spent thousands of pounds cleaning his work off walls, and although nowadays most homeowners keep their fingers crossed that he will choose their walls for his next daubings it's certainly ironic that Bristol City Museum is now staging an exhibition of his work. If you fancy seeing his work at street level one of his earliest works - known as Well Hung Lover - can be seen on Park Street opposite College Green. Or take a stroll down to Stokes Croft for one of his most famous pieces - Mild Mild West - which shows a teddybear about to throw a molotov cocktail into a line of police.
The Banksy exhibition runs from 10am to 5pm every day, from 13th June - 31st August 2009 at the City Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition is free.