Yesterday we managed to squeeze in a visit to Banksy versus Bristol Museum. I say ‘squeeze in’ because even on a Monday afternon we queued for 45 minutes which left us just less than one hour to see what all the fuss was about.
In the two main exhibition areas I was initially unconvinced. The images (and several 3-D exhibits, most of them with moving parts) were arresting and sometimes witty, but also fairly crude in their invective against obvious targets – child labour, pollution and politicians, as well as the stereotypes of art.
More intriguing were the individual items dotted through the museum’s own galleries: ‘Venus after Surgery’ in which a nude views her reflection complete with sticking plasters is slipped in between classical paintings. Amongst exponents of the Bristol School, ‘View of New Hartcliffe’, complete with sunset and pastoral accoutrements, is defaced by he wreck of a burned out car.
The overall effect was a lot more than the sum of its parts and as the title of the exhibition suggests, raises real questions about the nature of art and the way in which it is traditionally displayed. It’s great that the city has had this opportunity to take part in the debate.