Where do you expect to see graffiti? Probably not in a museum. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in the south-west of England, was the kind of place you went to see classical statues and stuffed animals in cases until the arrival of the ‘Banksy versus the Bristol Museum’ exhibition in the summer of 2009. The exhibition hosted more than 100 works by Banksy, one of the world’s most famous graffiti artists.
Banksy is a man of mystery. He hardly ever gives interviews and likes to be anonymous. Nobody knows much about his life or his background but many people believe that his real name is either Robin Gunningham, Robert Banks or Robin Banks and that he was born in 1973 near Bristol.
Banksy’s controversial ‘street art’ includes spray paintings on live sheep and cows and graffiti on the huge wall erected to divide Israel and Palestine. Brad Pitt spent over 2 million dollars on a Banksy original. Banksy designed an album cover for the Britpop group Blur in 2003 but he has refused at least four requests to do adverts for Nike. A year after the Bristol exhibition, Banksy made a film called Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film tells the story of a French street artist in America. Exit Through the Gift Shop received many positive reviews. Nobody knows if it was about a real artist or an invented character from Banksy’s imagination.
Bristol isn’t the only place in Britain to welcome graffiti. The DPM Park in Dundee, Scotland has the longest legal graffiti wall (almost 110 metres long) in the UK. Anyone can paint on the council-owned wall any time they like. Mike Crilley, the graffiti wall project organiser, promotes the positive side of graffiti and runs workshops for local children.
Is everyone doing graffiti? Can we do graffiti where we want these days? Not exactly. It’s illegal to paint on somebody else's property so make sure you find a legal graffiti wall like the one in Dundee if you want to have a go.