Our culture goes through constant stages of reinvention. “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission,” says Banksy, the most famous graffiti artist of our time. By choosing to display his art on publicly visible surfaces, he skillfully turns city streets into giant museum halls and us into perpetual observers. Banksy’s philosophy of “spending less time to make the picture than it takes people to look at it,” caters to our immediacy driven culture.
It’s ironic that Banksy himself remains perfectly anonymous, while making all of us part of his art by using public spaces as his canvas. Just go on to Instagram and search for Banksy and you will be surprised at the multitude of places where his work is spotted – as if there’s a Banksy in London, one in New York, another in Amsterdam. Spotting a Banksy has become a badge of honor. And what greater honor is there than going back to the source, where the Banksy magic started? Bristol, in south west England.
Bristol is a city that was badly damaged during the Second World War, but one that has gradually regenerated, reinventing itself into one of Britain’s most exciting destinations. It’s a city that is famous for its underground music (Portishead, Massive Attack), its Georgian and Victorian architecture, and for its street art of which Banksy has become the biggest presence.
There is so much to discover by wandering the streets of Bristol, like the famous image of a lover hanging out of a bedroom window or the gorilla in a pink mask. And while the Internet overflows with reproductions of his work, nothing compares to the thrill of spotting a Banksy yourself. This is largely due to the fact that most of these pieces of street art can disappear just as quickly as they appeared, often being painted over by the city councils. To visit Bristol is not just a pilgrimage to the vibrant home of this insurgent artist, it exposes you to the possibility of experiencing a unique moment in time, looking at some of the 21st century’s most exciting, controversial and transient pieces of art.