A Virtual Banksy Walking Tour of BristolPosted on: 24 Jan 2017
We take you on a virtual tour through Bristol, being guided by the art of its most infamous creative export: the graffiti grafter and enigmatic upstart Banksy.
Banksy will be remembered as one of the three truly great ‘B’s that Bristol has produced, alongside Brunel and Big Jeff. Over the last two decades, the street artist has risen from his Frenchay roots to international acclaim by intelligently manipulating the paradox of artistic identity: everybody knows Banksy, but nobody knows who Banksy is. Playing on this secrecy, the artist seemed to appear more and more anonymous with each new piece of his work that appeared. Largely responsible for the revaluated artistic merit of graffiti, as well as for myriad masterpieces of the genre, he is undoubtedly one of the city’s favourite sons.
It is only fitting, therefore, that a number of said masterpieces appear in the artist’s hometown. We have collected all of them (that we know of) into the list below, and have devised a handy route which will allow you to check them out and appraise for yourself.
1. Girl with the Pierced Eardrum - Hanover Place, Spike Island
The tour has its beginning on Spike Island, a stone’s throw from the SS Great Britain and the 365Bristol office in the Aardman Factory. In the carpark of Hanover Place is a recent addition to Banksy’s canon, his 21st-century translation of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. Here the famed earring in question takes the form of an octagonal burglar alarm, an example of the artist’s incorporation of pre-existing features of the wall into his compositions.
2. Grim Reaper - M Shed, Spike Island
A short walk along Spike Island’s waterfront will lead you to the M Shed, the museum which now houses one of Banksy’s most famous works. Initially occupying a spot on the starboard hull of the HMS Thekla (which allowed the deathly figure to look like he was really floating on water), the piece was recovered when the naval nightclub underwent renovation in 2014. The Grim Reaper now takes pride of place at the M Shed, where he is on long term loan.
3. You Don’t Need Planning Permission… - Lower Lamb St, Centre
Cross the water onto mainland Bristol and head towards the Cathedral. Nestled behind the Central Library on Lower Lamb Street is this piece which reads ‘You don’t need planning permission to build castles in the sky’, a work which evidences the street artist’s ability to intelligently combine language and form.
4. Well-Hung Lover - Frogmore St, Centre
Look to your right as you begin to head up Park Street and you’ll catch a pair of philanderers in the act - something the subject of the painting isn’t ever quite able to do. Well-Hung Lover is perhaps the most famous of Banksy’s Bristol offerings, largely due to its ability to coherently tell a story in one succinct snapshot. Out of the window painted the side of the last house on Frogmore Street peer a woman and her husband, whose searching looks are evaded by the naked ‘other man’ who hangs out of sight.
5. Paint Pot Angel - Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Centre
Emerging onto the Triangle at the top of Park Street you’ll see the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in whose foyer stands Paint Pot Angel. The statue, which sees a pot of bright pink paint upended over the head of an otherwise traditional sandstone angel, is a remnant of the infamous ‘Banksy vs Bristol’ series which took over the museum in 2009, subverting a number of works in a fashion typical to the artist.
6. The Mild, Mild West - The Canteen, Stokes Croft
Wandering down towards Stokes Croft from the Triangle will take you onto Cheltenham Road directly opposite Hamilton House, home to Bristol’s most popular alternative landmark, as voted for by its residents in 2007. The Mild, Mild West looks down over the smoking area of The Canteen, the mural depicting a cartoon teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.
7. Take the Money and Run - Montpelier Health Centre, Montpelier
Tucked away in the carpark of the Montpelier Health Centre, just up the road, you’ll find one of Banksy’s earliest hometown pieces, entitled Take the Money and Run. A collaboration with street art contemporaries Inkie and Mobz, the mural sees its titular thieves silhouetted against a vibrant backdrop.
8. Clik Clack Booom - Cato St, Easton
Depending on how energetic you’re feeling at this point in the tour, a bus up to Easton could represent your best next move. Be sure to disembark near Cato Street to catch another elongated mural, Clik Clack Booom, with the early anti-war stance a driving force behind much of the work Banksy has produced since. In the top right corner the piece is tagged by a group called 1st Division Airborne Aerosol Supremacy.
9. Cat and Dogs - Robertson Rd, Easton
Just around the corner on Robertson Road you’ll find another of the artist’s early works, Cat and Dogs, which betrays a pair of the themes which recur in his work: the use of animals and the portrayal of graffiti artists, which appear as meta-symbols.
10. Masked Gorilla - Fishponds Rd, Easton
The final stop on the tour is another of Banksy’s most famous pieces, made using the stylized stencil that would become his trademark. Peering out from the corner of Fishponds Road is the Masked Gorilla, which coyly hides its face with a mask of bright pink. Though it was initially targeted by vandals and damaged as a result, a ghostly imprint of the piece remains as a testament to the susceptibility of street art to wear and change, which its creator was acutely aware of.
An ardent Geordie minus the accent, Sam seemingly strove to get as far away from the Toon as possible, as soon as university beckoned. Three undergraduate years at UoB were more than ample time for Bristol (as it inevitably does) to get under his skin, and so here he remains: reporting, as Assistant Editor, on the cultural happenings which so infatuated him with the city. Catch him at firstname.lastname@example.org.