Banksy Versus Bristol Museum
by Ariston Anderson
Street artist Banksy makes breaking the rules an artform, but his current exhibit, a legal installation of over 100 pieces at Bristol's City Museum & Art Gallery is surprising even his closest followers. Playing on earlier covert stunts that targeted the Tate and MoMA, in an unusual reversal, this time the institution welcomes the anonymous artist with open arms for his biggest British exhibition to date.
By only informing a few museum officials—most employees were told a film crew was setting up—organizers managed to keep Banksy's anonymity intact while the officials worked to change out display cases usually housing museum classics.
Including many never-before-seen works, the show also revisits the animatronic pets from his recent New York show with the addition of a beret-clad chimp painting a sunset and a hiking gerbil. A marble statue of a lion fits in with the museum's surroundings, but its blood-smeared, whip-filled mouth and towering over a lion tamerâs coat signals otherwise. Banksy's political streak shows up in one of the largest canvases depicting a writer painting the old WWI slogan "Workers of the World Unite!" as a graffiti clean-up crew member looks on.
Positioned across from a sweater sporting the phrase "Thug for Life," a canvas of a pixelated face may be the closest it gets to a Banksy self-portrait. In addition to knitwear, he continues to experiment across multiple mediums with a series of modernized Greek sculptures and a stone engraved with the Pablo Picasso quote, "The bad artists imitate, the great artists steal," but the artist crosses out Picasso's name and adds his own.
Banksy, whose guerrilla approach and clever work has garnered international acclaim, will likely draw criticism for his museum exhibition from the same locals who condemned his early graffiti. But the museum expects to draw hundreds of thousands of guests this summer specifically interested in his exhibit.
See more images after the jump.