This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
The Arts


t banksy W


he legacy


PAUL GOUGH tells us why it was time to write a book about ‘that’ Banksy exhibition


hen I told people in Bristol that I was writing this book everyone asked the same two questions: “Have you actually


met Banksy?” and “Does he know you are writing this book?” Answer to the first: “Possibly; but how would I know?”; answer to the second: “Probably, but why do you think it’s important?” These and other frequently asked


questions – and my cryptic responses – reveal several things about us and Banksy: first, our continuing fascination with this most secretive of public artists; secondly, a begrudging respect at times bordering on genuine affection for his role as a spokesman on contemporary matters; and thirdly, the British fascination with the ‘whodunnit’, who exactly is this person about whom so much is apparently known but who chooses anonymity and absence over visibility and instant recognition? Banksy’s absence throws down a blatant challenge to our cult of instant celebrity. His is the missing face from the weekly glossy gossip mags; a global ‘name’ who simply refuses to reveal himself; the empty seat on the ubiquitous chat show. By choosing to be notoriously reclusive, Banksy has become a celebrity figure


34 Clifton Life www.mediaclash.co.uk


inside both the DIY activist communities and in mainstream popular culture. Far from alienating him from the British public, his closely guarded identity appears to have endeared him to many who have become tired of the self- regarding, hi-visibility of many ‘celebrities’ whether they be TV cooks, overpaid footballers, or peripheral royals. However, despite the many who revere


the humorous and subversive nature of his artwork, there are as many others who regard it as simply criminal; perhaps quite rightly, our law-enforcement figures view illegal painting in public spaces as little more than wilful vandalism. And there are many other street painters who see his work as little more than a sequence of stunts (and who believe street art should stay in the street, not in neat frames on the gallery wall). There are others who regard Banksy as a clownish one-liner, a prankster with attitude and a spray can. In his public statements Banksy


cleverly toys with these disparate views, threatening on the one hand that “A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with”, while raising Calvino-esque poetic aspirations on the other: “Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and


barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.” I wanted to create a book that gave a platform to a variety of views, to voices of dissent questioning some of the aesthetics and ethics behind his work, to those who revere his contribution to the culture of our over-furnished cities. Above all, it was not intended to be yet another picture book. It set out to locate the Banksy phenomenon in the aftermath of the 2009 exhibition in Bristol, aptly named ‘Banksy versus Bristol Museum’. It was not difficult to garner strong


views. Everyone, it seems, has a Banksy story. What emerged was a fascinating insight into the man – assuming he is a ‘he’ – and the many tens of thousands who queued to see the work of Banksy and his accomplices


THE AIM OF this book was not to reveal the identity of the artist, nor


to uncover how the show was created, although some of the contributors hint at both. Its aim was to try to evaluate the legacy of the show, to ask if there was an estimable impact, a lingering influence on Bristol, on its culture, on the museums, and whether this could be evaluated in economic terms. Clearly, the first port of call had to


be the museum itself. The show rather caught its own staff by surprise, many were delighted, a few though were


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108