Earlier this week Banksy put up a piece named ‘Mobile Lovers’ on Clement street in central Bristol and subsequently built up international hype by putting photos of it on his website (banksy.co.uk). It was located directly outside the gates of the Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project, and in a very non banksy move, screwed to the wall on plyboard.
We here in Bristol silently rejoiced that Banksy was still active and choosing to display his guerrilla street art in his hometown. Though with the rest of the world we watched in horror as the story unfolded into some ugly twisted tale of onwership and petty bitching, making our quiet westcountry city look like a school playground.
The facts appear to be straight, but the moral implications are anything but. The youth club took it upon themselves to class it as a gift from the internationally controversial artist and swiftly remove it from the wall, stashing it in their club building and charging the public £1 to view it. The youth club manager Dennis Stinchcombe Claims that the club has been struggling to survive in recent years due to lack of council funding and pressures of running an inner city community space, and depending which report you believe he quotes the club being anywhere from £100,000 to £150,000 in debt. His intention was to auction off the work and invest the proceeds back into the club and community.
As presumtuous as this might seem, it does correlate with recent ‘Anonymous’ Banksy movements. On 5th March this year the Bristol Cube, a charitable independent arts theatre and cinema, anonymously received a rare signed piece of banksy art from his ‘Di-Faced Tenners’ series which they were able to sell off for £11,000 and secure a chunk of their much needed funding . Also back in 2009 when he held his only art gallery exhibition in the Bristol Museum, a charity shop in nearby Clifton received an anonymous stock of Banksy postcards and merchandise which they were able to sell for a cool £20,000.
On top of this, last month He released a variation on his popular work ‘‘There is Always Hope’ to show a Syrian child losing her balloon. This was released alongside hashtag #WithSyria to promote Oxfams campaign to raise support for the region.
With this history of charitable donations, is it unfair of the Bristol youth club manager to assume this new piece is a gift for their stuggling community project?
The plot thickens. Days later a BBC news report interviewing Bristol Mayor George Ferguson quoted him as saying he regarded the move as theft, and wanted the piece put back up on the ‘council-owned’ wall. That night police turned up to confiscate the painting after ‘official’ complaints from Bristol council. The current rumours state that it is in the Bristol Museum and will remain there.
The story has buzzed around Bristol all week, and everybody appears to have a different opinion on the situation. Whats yours? We will leave you with a statement from the man himself on corperate advertising in a public space.