After much exhaustion on which I shall elaborate later, we are proud to present: Banksy vs Bristol Museum! More pics to follow when I have a bit more sleep.
As this is a work in progress and I can't yet upload my own pictures (these ones were taken by Daniel and I shall not steal any more of his thunder), I shall describe in words what I cannot yet in pictures.
It took me five hours to get to Bristol. Usually, it would only be about three, but for no clear reason, thetrainline.com decided that I would much like sitting around in Derby Train Station for an hour, and that Cheltenham Spa Train Station would also be a good place to leave me for about forty minutes. From my very brief stay in both these stations, I can only conclude that these towns are likely to be the most boring places in the world, and that they serve the pre-packaged sandwiches found throughout the UK that are somehow designed so that the "turkey breast and ham" sandwich tastes identical to "tomato and cheese", and not a very good tomato and cheese at that.
But no matter. Three trains, four stations and five hours after I leave from my comfortable abode in Leicester in pursuit of what I hope to be amazing art, I arrive in Bristol. It is 2.30pm. Daniel had gotten to Bristol an hour before me and has warned me that at the time, he had been in the queue for 20 minutes and still was not in.
By the time I reach the Bristol City Museum it is 3pm, and last entry into the museum is 4pm. There are at least 300 people in front of me waiting to see Banksy. The "museum staff", big muscular guys who look like they could pound you into a pulp if they so wished, look more like bouncers. They warn us at 3.15pm that it looks unlikely that many more of us are going to get in, but we in the queue hold on to the precious ground we had gained against the impregnable machine of museum policy. People continue to join the end of the queue, still hoping to get in. I was reminded quite surreally of queueing outside the club on a Friday night, only that it was daytime, there was no loud music, and the drunken students shouting obscenities were replaced by mostly middle-aged men and women, sipping coffee and having genteel conversation.
As you may have guessed, I did get in eventually after 45 more minutes. By the time I arrived at the museum steps, I felt like a king.
The main hall looked absolutely surreal. Masses of people shuffled about in orderly queues, staring at what appeared to be plain and simple vandalism. Right in the middle was an ice-cream truck with no wheels and smashed windows ("glass" fragments lay on the ground nearby). The body of the truck was covered with poor-quality street graffiti. A shopping cart lay destroyed nearby, and most surreally a full-sized SWAT officer was perched on a tiny carousel pony, riding up and down mechanically. A tag on its chest read "Metropolitan Peace". I left the queue to snap some pictures and realised that the smashed-up ice cream truck doubled as a reception.
Looking more closely, the traditional Greek and Roman statues had been remade into a parody of their modern counterparts.
Venus, Goddess of Beauty, is staring intently at the price tag of a pair of sunglasses in her hand despite already wearing another pair. A fashionable winter scarf is wrapped around her neck, while a revealing toga frames her plastercast assets. She cradles a bundle of shopping bags in her hand, the kind of oversized paper bag with fancy designs that is presented to you by branded companies as a "thank you" note for allowing them to rob you of your money, and their workers of their dignity.
Apollo is wrapping a cloth over his mouth to hide his face. A jacket lined with explosives is strapped to his chest.
Cupid, cigarette and beer can in hand, stands drunkenly over a small pile of junk food and energy drinks, clasping one high-heeled shoe in the other hand.
The Goddess of Victory, Nike, stands proudly with chest straight and wings unfurled, but a paint bucket has been placed rudely over her head. ugly pink splotches have dripped all the way from the bucket to the base of the statue. Further away, Buddha isn't spared either. He sits wisely as he always does, but his left hand is not raised up - instead it rests in a sling across his lap. His neck has been placed in a brace, and one eye appears to be swollen shut.
On the other side of the hall is a cast of a lion with a circus whip in its mouth. It stands fiercely over a hat and jacket that may have belonged to an animal trainer. His fate is hinted at by a small amount of blood-red paint on the lion's mouth and face.
Rejoining the queue, I walked down a corridoor into a side room, filled with Banksy's paintings.
To be continued in Part III.