Banksy versus Bristol Museum

Issue section: 

City Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol, until 31 August

Banksy has come home to Bristol. The anonymous street artist launched his biggest ever exhibition at the city's museum at the end of June, provoking Banksy mania in the local and national press.

Banksy versus Bristol Museum brings together more than 100 pieces of work, many of which are brand new. The exhibition was conceived, planned and set up by Banksy's crew and the head of the museum without the knowledge of Bristol City Council, which owns the place, once again demonstrating Banksy's chutzpah.

Some of the works are placed around the Edwardian building among the dusty old exhibits in a "remix" of the museum.

The show is a mixture of Banksy's graffiti and stencil art pieces and his newer style of installation work. The animatronics pieces from his New York Pet Shop show are there, including fish fingers swimming in a goldfish bowl and chicken nuggets in a cage feeding on a tub of barbecue sauce: a comment on the treatment of animals.

Much of Banksy's work has a rebellious political message: he laughs at cops, consumerism, religion and politicians, and protests against war.

Banksy is a master of juxtaposition and some of the best pieces are where he has altered the existing museum exhibits. The old traditional gypsy caravan has been wheel-clamped and had an eviction notice stuck on the door. In the old biplane hanging from the ceiling sits a Guantanamo detainee in orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.

Among the old masters in the gallery there are Banksy's remixed paintings. Jean-Fran├žois Millet's The Gleaners has one of the field workers stepping out of the frame for a fag break, the piece renamed Agency Job (The Gleaners).

Despite suggestions that Banksy has "sold out" or become establishment, his work continues to prick the pomposity of the art world. His decision to take his show to the heart of the local establishment is as mischievous as the art itself. He'll no doubt be laughing at the fawning praise he is now receiving from the local press and politicians who have for so long condemned him as a vandal and a criminal: those who only discovered Banksy's talent after he became world famous, celebrity endorsed and worth lots of money.

Banksy's work is funny and provocative and to see so much of it in this setting, and for free, is great. People should definitely go to this show before it closes.