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Thousands flock to Banksy show in Bristol

Monday, June 15, 2009, 07:00

They came in their thousands to Banksy’s home city to be the first to see the secretive artist’s biggest ever UK exhibition.

During the opening weekend, almost 8,500 people flooded through the doors of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery – about eight times the number the venue would normally attract.

So many people visited that museum staff had to operate a one in, one out policy.

After days of speculation about the venue for his summer show, the Evening Post broke the news exclusively that much of the Queen’s Road museum had been taken over for the event.

The exhibition features 100 pieces and was installed over two days in an operation surrounded by secrecy.

It led to a sudden invasion of Banksy followers from around the country, desperate to be there when the doors opened.

Fellow Bristol-born artist Damien Hirst was also there yesterday, showing his family around the exhibition.

Among the trendy young art critics and graffiti fans were families, teenagers, students and pensioners from Bristol, many of whom have watched Banksy’s fame – and notoriety – grow down the years.

Some had started travelling almost as soon as they knew where they had to be, prepared to sleep on the pavement outside the museum if necessary.

But although no one did, a queue began forming on Saturday morning nearly three hours before people were allowed inside.

At the head of the line were enthusiasts from Surrey, Newcastle-on-Tyne and Windsor.

Josh Blair, 22, of Esher, is a student at Reading and got up at 5.30am so he could get a first view of the exhibits.

He said: “Why did I do it? Because it’s Banksy, why else?”

Josh was joined by his girlfriend, Kim Adams, 23, of New Malden., his nephew, Zak Blair, of Newcastle, and Zak’s girlfriend, Lori Casson, all 23.

With them on the museum steps were Amy and Tom Vickers, of Windsor. They set off from home the day before and checked out the location before booking into a hotel for the night.

Tom, 27, who runs a retail website, was first through the door when it finally opened five minutes late, to be welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Chris Davies.

He said: “There were rumours going around a couple of weeks ago saying there was going to be a show and when we discovered where it was going to be, we decided to come here straight away.”

“As we’re here, we’ll also go and see if we can find some of the Banksy street art.”

By the time the exhibition was opened at 10am, the queue had stretched to the top of Park Street, with students, pensioners and families among those waiting patiently in the sunshine.

It wasn’t long before notices were put up advising them there would be a wait of at least 30 minutes before they reached the entrance.

And as they crept forward, more people arrived to take their place.

One member of staff brought in specially for the exhibition said there hadn’t been a Saturday like it with so many visitors crowding in.

Once they had been admitted into the museum, some visitors were forced to join another queue to get into the “the art of Banksy” room within the exhibition.

Among the masses were many people from Bristol, including Malin and Tony Wood, of Redland, who fitted their visit in before going on holiday.

They said they were regular supporters of the museum and were delighted it had been chosen to show the exhibition.

A curator from another art gallery was also getting an early glimpse of the works.

Kate Pryor-Williams, 29, of Wolverhampton Art Gallery, said: “Banksy is a controversial figure so it’s nice for some of his critics to see how many members of the public have an interest in him and have come here today.”

Yesterday the queues were back in force, and for the whole day a snaking line stretched from the museum entrance to the traffic lights at the top of Park Street as people waited patiently for up to an hour and a half in the sun to get in.

Among the afternoon visitors were friends Juliette Griggs, 42, a photographer and graphic designer from Culmstock in Devon, and her friend Sarah Thompson, 24, a media researcher from Taunton.

Ms Griggs said: “We have come up to see this specifically. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.” I know it is on until August, but we wanted to do it now.”

After the show, the two Banksy fans said that some parts of the exhibition had brought them close to tears.

They said: “It is a disturbing comment on the way we live, the way we sleepwalk through life destroying things we should take more care of.

“I was on the verge of tears when I saw the Tweetie Pie without any feathers the panda head on the wall and the leopard. He was saying we are going to lose the panda, and that we only have ourselves to blame.

“But at the same time there is a lot of humour as well.”

Friends Hilda Cannock, of South Street, Bedminster, and Vera Watkins, of Sion Road, Bedminster, who are both in their 70s, have been following Banksy since he started out.

Ms Watkins said: “I have been a fan for about 20 years. Years ago when you heard the name Banksy it was to put him in prison, but when he puts pictures on the walls he improves them.

“Each one of these here has got a moral to it, and they are about what goes on in the world.

“I loved the chimpanzees in the Houses of Parliament, as it is so true to life at the moment, but my favourite is the obese couple in the rickshaw with the child pulling them.”

Ms Cannock added: “I see it as art rather than graffiti, and can’t see any real harm in it. I just wonder if we will ever find out who he is.”

Rebecca Burton, deputy head of the museum, said people had come from all over the country for the opening weekend.

She said: “It has gone amazingly well, with queues down the road all day. Just speaking to people in the queues they are so excited. We have had visitors from Ireland, Manchester and Nottingham., and a father and son down from Derby and were on the doorstep at 10am yesterday morning.

“We have had all ages coming. The kids love it and bring their parents, teenagers love it and so do older people.”

“I spoke to an 80-year-old woman and her daughter who had come from Cirencester, and she said ‘I love Banksy, he is so of the moment’.

“It seems to cross so many different types of people.”

Ms Burton said that yesterday there were about 3,000 visitors, down from Saturday’s 5,500.

But she said that many had come from further away, and were taking their time to fully enjoy the exhibition.

It is open from 10am to 5pm, but this week the museum will close its doors at 4pm to allow the final visitors an hour to get around.

Thousands flocked to the new Banksy show in Bristol
Thousands flocked to the new Banksy show in Bristol

 

   















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