goodstuff 012

Mark Noble photographer

Banksy artist


Long-time fans of the art of graffiti have had many, many underground heroes to follow and possibly emulate—but only a few make it to household name status, where middle-class middle-aged broadsheet readers may have a thick perfect-bound book featuring said artist on the coffee table. Here in Blighty, a completely anonymous chap from Bristol has certainly made it—at least, to the people waiting in line around the block for over two hours, he’s definitely made it. To say the Banksy vs Bristol Museum exhibit was impressive would be understating it a little.

Firstly, the setting. The Bristol Museum is one of those classically dusty old museums from yesteryear—well, 1905 to be precise—grand olde architecture, all stone and vaulted pillars spread over three floors and nineteen galleries of paintings, blue glass (for which Bristol is famed) and stuffed animals in glass cabinets. The usual sort of thing. Apparently, Banksy wanted to give something back to his home town and decided to collaborate with the city and host a free exhibition of a selection of his art. Amazingly, as most cities spend large budgets on erasing graf, Bristol welcomed the idea and let him loose in their beloved museum.

The end result is wild. It’s not what you may expect from the artist either—if you’re expecting all stencil art—as this isn’t Banksy at his rawest. It’s Banksy at his finest. Sure, there are some ginormous canvasses of stencilled riot police skipping gaily through meadows, sprayed-on rats painting over expensive modern art and the like, but the rest of it is astounding and surprising, and it’s dotted about all over the place amongst the museum’s usual collection.

There’s the huge oil painting of parliament comprised of monkeys and apes, the full-scale sculptures of bishops with bondage gear (of this series, Angel Of The North was a standout, along with a classic lion sculpture with a bloodied whip in his mouth and a lion-tamer’s jacket shredded to pieces) and the myriad paintings all given a unique twist. A few, more subtle hidden pieces need a keen eye to spot: 250-plus little plakky soldiers painstakingly arranged over a scale model of Jerusalem that was carved from olive trees… and is that a stalagmite or…? Then there’s the Unnatural History section, featuring hyper-detailed animatronics—just how does he get a pair of fish-fingers swimming around a globe-shaped fishtank? Or a nest of baby CCTV cameras tweeting to their mother? Even the burnt-out and molten ice-cream van with off-road tyres at the entrance hall is great. It’s all great fun, to be honest. And all with thoughtful process—just genius, I guess you could say. All in all, a damn impressive exhibition, and like we said here, this one that won’t be repeated, so grab these once-in-a-lifetime chances with both hands while you can. Get in the queue, and enjoy it! Bloody ace. Bristol Legend.

, 31 July 2009