Banksy v Bristol Museum


13th June - 31st August 2009


City Museum and Art Gallery

Banksy's largest street art exhibition goes on show this summer. The Banksy v Bristol Museum features a staggering collection of work, much of which hasn't been seen before. Make sure you get down to the City Museum and see Banksy's amusing reinvention of their exhibits.

A Big Secret
As with Banksy's other exhibitions, the Bristol show has been shrouded in secrecy. Planning for the Banksy v Bristol Museum show has been going on since October but it was only made public days before the exhibition opened. However, this is his biggest display to date with his work filling all three floors of the Edwardian City Museum and Art Gallery so it was worth all the cloak and dagger activity. It features more than 100 pieces of work, 70 of which have never been seen before.

Street Canvasser
He's without doubt the most influential street artist. Widely believed to have been born near Bristol, he began using the city's buildings as a canvas back in the 1990s. Then, street art was viewed as a nuisance, considered to be ugly scrawls that reflected badly on the area and the council paid thousands to have the work removed. The irony is that now the same council is not only funding a public exhibition of his work but is proud to be hosting it. However, he hopes that his Banksy v Bristol Museum show isn't viewed as him becoming part of the establishment. Instead theorising that perhaps the official art world has been lowered to his level, rather than him being elevated to theirs.

Anachronistic Art
Like his other exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, there's plenty to amuse and shock at the Bansky v Bristol Museum show. He has yet again used the existing museum exhibits to have a bit of fun. The biplane suspended from the ceiling in the reception area now has an escapee from Guantanamo Bay hiding inside it. A statue of a paedophile bishop sits alongside one of Turner's works of art and he's made a replica Stonehenge from portable toilets.

Guerilla Tactics
There's plenty of humour but there's also a political bent. A striking piece in the exhibition is a 12-foot wide portrait of the House of Commons which he has filled with monkeys in suits. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled though as many of the pieces are so discreet you could miss them. A cabinet of locally made pottery now also houses a used hash pipe, also made locally. Unlike his other exhibitions, you can't buy any of the work but as the Banksy v Bristol Museum is free you can go as many times as you like over its three-month run.

Bristol in Bloom
Banksy's last indoor exhibition in Bristol was held in 2000 and therefore this show is well overdue. In his absence, however, the graffiti scene in Bristol has flourished. Recently there was an exhibition of some of Bristol's most well-known artists. The Crimes of Passion exhibition was held at the Royal West of England Academy and showcased no less than 50 of the city's most prominent artists. However, despite being such an influence, Banksy is notoriously camera-shy and he's managed to keep his identity under wraps. He apparently helped set up many of the exibits for the Banksy v Bristol Museum show. However, it's believed that many of the staff at the Bristol City Museum were unaware he was there helping to hang his own famous work.

Early Work
As he's a street artist, much of his early work can be seen around the city. Just across from the museum is an early piece - known as Well Hung Lover - which is on one of the buildings of Park Street opposite College Green. It shows a naked man dangling from a window whilst his lover's partner looks out onto the street, searching for him. Or down in Stokes Croft there's what is arguably his most famous piece - Mild Mild West - a teddybear holding a molotov cocktail in front of 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.

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