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Graffiti star Banksy launches biggest art show

Anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, who enjoys a cult following around the world, has returned to his home town of Bristol in western England to launch his biggest exhibition to date.
/ Source: Reuters

Anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, who enjoys a cult following around the world, has returned to his home town of Bristol in western England to launch his biggest exhibition to date.

Typically for a man who keeps his identity secret, the whole project has been shrouded in mystery, with media, local councilors and even staff at the museum only finding out about the project on Friday, the day before it was due to open.

It has over 100 exhibits, including 70 new works. One of the pieces is a sculpture designed to convey a mother bird and two chicks in a nest but using three CCTV cameras instead to symbolize Britain’s surveillance society.

“This is the first show I’ve ever done where taxpayers’ money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off,” Banksy was quoted by the BBC as saying. “This show is my vision of the future.”

Many of Banksy’s works are hidden amongst the art museum’s more traditional paintings, mimicking a 2003 stunt when he smuggled a work into the Tate Britain gallery in London and stuck it to the wall. It went undiscovered for hours.

Banksy became famous through illegal outdoor graffiti, including painting on the West Bank barrier and leaving a life-size figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at the California theme park Disneyland.

Image: Banksy art
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: A Bristol Museum employee adjusts one of the latest suprise exhibits by the underground guerrilla artist, Banksy on June 12 2009 in Bristol, England. The exhibition called \"Banksy versus Bristol Museum\" is one of the largest single collections of the artist works and was organised under tight security and installed in just 36hrs with only a handful of museum staff aware it was even happening. Banksy, whose real identity remains a mystery, is said to hail from the Bristol area, and claims that hosting the exhibition in the city is his way of thanking the city for his early street art career. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)Matt Cardy / Getty Images Europe

Simon Cook, deputy leader of Bristol council who has responsibility for arts, said he was thrilled Banksy was back, despite his controversial nature.

“Everybody assumed it (his new exhibition) would be in Los Angeles, in New York, in London, but he insisted it came to Bristol ... and it’s just him coming home,” Cook said.

A PR company representing Banksy released a statement, which it said came directly from the artist, explaining why he was staging the show in Bristol.

“Banksy, who is rumored to hail from the Bristol area, but has never revealed his full identity due to ongoing legal complications, is mounting the show as a salute to the city, which supported his early street career,” it read.

From small time graffiti artist to global star, Banksy’s work has become so valuable that several of his street works have been salvaged and sold, including a painting on a wall in London that fetched $340,000 in an online sale in 2008.