Banksy:The Bristol Legacy

Banksy:The Bristol Legacy
Author: Gough, Paul (26 April 2012)


In the summer of 2009 Bristol saw a remarkable phenomenon that made international news. An estimated 300,000 people queued for hours, often in pouring rain, for admission to the city’s museum & art gallery. They had been attracted by the media hype surrounding an exhibition ambiguously entitled ‘Banksy vs the Bristol Museum’.

There have been many celebratory books about Banksy, but this is the first non-partisan documentation of the Bristol event and an attempt to assess its local and wider impact. More than a dozen commentators, including art curators, historians, economists, journalists and local government managers, attempt to answer a raft of questions: Is Banksy a subversive influence or merely a bit of fun? Why is Banksy so important to Bristol? Are we dealing with art, ‘street art’ or graffiti? Where does the exhibition leave Bristol as an epicentre of ‘street art’? What was its economic impact?

The book looks at the setting up of the show and questions the need – other than to conform to the required Banksy mystique – for secrecy.

Bristol City Council took an unprecedented risk in allowing the Banksy team a free run of its galleries. The implications of this for future museum practice and for State encouragement of the popular arts are dealt with in detail.

In the wake of the exhibition the council designated a run-down area of the inner city for a ‘street art’ bonanza, inviting artists from around the world. The book attempts to judge the success of that initiative. Finally, a practising lawyer asks whether Banksy’s work can be given ‘listed building’ consent.

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