Yesterday evening the excellent Rise Music on Queens Road played host to the grandly-titled “European Launch” of the latest book about arguably Bristol’s most notorious export, Banksy: The Bristol Legacy, which examines the impact of Banksy, and particularly the Banksy vs Bristol Museum show of the summer of 2009, on our fair city.
Edited by Professor Paul Gough, Pro Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts at UWE and with contributions coming largely from professional academics, this is perhaps not aimed at the same audience as other successful Banksy books such as Home Sweet Home and Wall and Piece. Where those books are filled with photos and essentially serve as collated retrospectives of Banksy’s work, Banksy: The Bristol Legacy is a collection of essays focusing largely on the aftermath of Banksy both for the city of Bristol and for the world of art.
For me, the most interesting discussion is around the way Bristol now relates to Banksy. There are still, I’m sure, plenty of people in the city who see no value in anything he’s done and are frustrated by the continued prevalence and recent acceptability and even glorification of graffiti around our city for which he must take a lot of the blame. Others though have, over the more recent past, recognised that Banksy’s global fame (or infamy) can be reflected back onto Bristol and, as Andrew Kelly pointed out, where the council and people responsible for promoting Bristol for tourism and business were once happy to sideline Banksy (being mentioned only once in the 2008 Capital of Culture bid) Bristol’s street art is now championed as a crucial part of our city’s cultural make-up and we regularly see council-sanctioned street art like See No Evil last year or the murals in M Shed.
This new book is more about art-criticism and cultural commentary than other Banksy books so it may appeal to Banksy super-fans or to those that like to think deeply about art, culture or Bristol’s creative landscape but not necessarily those that just like Banksy’s work and think he’s witty. For me one of the joys of Banksy is that yes, he’s incisive and you can have complex discussions about the meaning of his cultural commentary but usually it doesn’t require that of you and you can enjoy it just as much on a more shallow level. Indeed some might say that that’s the only level on which you can or should enjoy him.
Banksy: The Bristol Legacy is available now in-store at Rise.