It’s 10 years to the day since Banksy secretly took over an entire museum in his home city, filled it with his thought-provoking art and threw open its doors to an unsuspecting public.
The free-to-enter Banksy vs. Bristol Museum show was the elusive street artist’s most ambitious stunt to date and ended up attracting more than 300,000 visitors over its 12-week run.
Banksy has since hit the headlines for that Sotheby’s shredded painting prank, opened The Walled Off Hotel overlooking the Israel-Palestine barrier and earned an Academy Award nomination for his 2010 film “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
He’s used his artwork to offer his (often tongue-in-cheek) commentary on issues including the United Kingdom’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union, the environment, the Syrian refugee crisis and overtourism.
And who can forget his 2013 New York City-wide Better Out Than In residency and the 2015 Dismaland bemusement park in Somerset, England?
Check out the promo for Banksy vs. Bristol Museum here:
It’s been quite the decade.
But it was back in 2009, on his return to Bristol in the southwest of England where he grew up, that Banksy captured the world’s imagination with the surprise show at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
His representatives did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about the lasting impact of the exhibition.
But Bristol-based street artist John D’oh, who assisted with the four-day setup of the event, hailed it for generating “an extreme amount of cultural and economic capital” for the city and contributing to a “tenfold” spike in local artists and the ongoing success of Upfest, the annual street art festival (which is taking a break in 2019).
“The exhibition was an instant success, with queues every day and in all weathers throughout the duration,” he recalled to HuffPost this week.
“One could argue that the show became more like a ‘cultural event’ than an artistic exhibition,” D’oh noted. “People stayed in hotels and guesthouses, ate in pubs and restaurants and made the city the No. 1 tourist destination in the entire U.K. that year.”
The bulk of Banksy’s 100+ pieces, ranging from animatronics to paintings and sculptures, were located in close proximity on the museum’s ground floor.
A Michael Jackson/Hansel & Gretel-themed piece, which depicted the controversial singer-songwriter appearing to entice children into his home with candy, was introduced midway through the exhibition after Jackson’s death:
Other works were slyly hidden among the gallery’s existing exhibits in its lesser-visited galleries, such as this one:
“While some were more obvious than others, the fact that you often had to scrutinize all the exhibitions closely in order to find the guerrilla artworks helped defamiliarize the public to exhibitions they had seen before or would normally just ignore,” added D’oh.
Banksy’s Paint-Pot Angel remains as a reminder of the historic event:
As does “Devolved Parliament,” which was temporarily returned to the museum in March to mark “Brexit Day” ― the day that the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union, but didn’t:
Check out more photographs from the 2009 Banksy vs. Bristol Museum show here: