Banksy is one of the world’s most premier street artists. He constantly finds ways to stay relevant and garners worldwide news coverage when a new piece of his graffiti lands in the streets.
Yet this notorious modern-day Robin Hood was born and raised in Bristol, England. A city of 535,907 – the birthplace of Black Beard, home to great bands like Portishead (named after a small town outside of Bristol) and Massive Attack. The “Brizzle” just so happens to be the worldwide headquarters of Wallace and Gromit’s creator-Aardman Studios and quite a few high-end street artists including Damien Hirst and Nick Walker started out on the streets of Bristol perfecting their art. Yet somehow Banksy managed to become the most important thing ever to come out of Bristol. Spawning a new form of tourism in the city…the Banksy Hunt. I am about to take you on my version of the hunt.
During my five-day stay in Weston-super-Mare to visit Dismaland Bemusement Park I took a day to travel to Banky’s home town by train. There are numerous Banksy pieces sprinkled throughout the city including one of his newest (2015) “The Girl with the Pierced Ear Drum.” I plan on visiting as many as possible in one day. I wrote down the locations of some of the Banksy’s in advance of the trip since I wasn’t going to have mobile data in England. I chose instead to rely on the people of Bristol for guidance and good directions. As a result of talking to people versus relying on the tiny computer in my hand for information I was gifted with two takeaways. First, people in Bristol are both helpful and cordial. Second, they love Banksy and they are really, really protective of his identity.
GETTING TO BRISTOL: I rented a car but did not want to drive figuring I’d have a couple of pints while in the port city. So I took the train which was a short walk from my B & B. The train from Weston-super-Mare to Bristol took about 37 minutes and was quite lovely.
Before I disembarked from Bristol Temple Meads Station, which is a major transportation hub for trains and buses, I quickly purchased a bus day pass to help expedite travel around the city.
There are a number of ways to attack the Banksy hunt in Bristol. In fact there are paid tours you can take, paid Apps you can download along with loads of free websites that walk you through the locations of each Banksy in and around the city. I chose to go on my own private and free walking tour based on the information I previously found online.
This is the best Banksy Hunt map I found online (click the arrow next to Virtual Banksy Tour of Bristol to reveal the artwork) :
Here are the Banksy’s throughout Bristol broken up by area:
Paint Pot Angel-located inside the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in the main entrance hall you will spot Banky’s Paint Pot Angel, which serves as a reminder of his hugely successful “Banksy versus Bristol Museum” exhibition held in 2009.
You Don’t Need Planning Permission- Located on Lower Lamb Street. Head towards the Cathedral. Nestled behind the Central Library on Lower Lamb Street is this piece You don’t need planning permission to build castles in the sky. Banksy proving words are just as powerful as images.
Well Hung Lover: Located on Frogmore Street. The piece is on the side of a sexual health clinic and is best viewed from Park Street, on the bridge that crosses Frogmore Street. Find the pizza place and walk NW on Park Street. Well Hung Lover is located in the nook very high up off of the ground.
The Mild Mild West: located in Stokes Croft, one of the coolest areas of the entire city and home to awesome little independent music stores and vintage shops you’ll find street art covering the walls. Consider this area and open gallery where street art is constantly changing that is except for Banksy’s The Mild Mild West, which is located next to The Canteen Bristol with the best views being from the Jamaica Street Junction.
Rose Trap: located on the side of a fence it’s easy to miss this tiny little Banksy just by walking to fast. Head down Thomas Street North off of Fremantel Square and look for the blue door. Rose Trap sits right next to the door almost as a welcome sign to the prominent homestead protected behind plexiglass.
Grim Reaper: if you go looking for the Grim Reaper in its original location on Bristol’s floating music venue, Thekla, you will be searching all day and night. To preserve the painting which was susceptible to high waters the City of Bristol has since moved it to The M Shed Museum, a free museum located in Princes Wharf on Wapping Road.
The Girl with the Pierced Ear Drum: as you head out of The M Shed Museum, past the iconic SS Great Britain and Aardman studios you will notice an unassuming building at Bristol’s Harbourside. Just next to a burger van and picnic tables set back about 50 yards from the other buildings you will be surprised as soon as you spot it. Just sitting there quietly halfway-up the wall is one of Banksy’s most recent Bristol pieces- The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.
After the thrill of finding this masterpiece wore off I found myself looking around the area where Banksy had decided to place this particular piece of artwork.
So, I walked a few steps in the opposite direction of my approach of the Girl with the Pierced Ear Drum to find The Orchard Inn, an ancient and tiny cider house. A few pints later I was talking to the locals about Banksy’s Dismaland. The locals were the reason I came to know about the S.S. Great Britain, Black Beard and Aardman studios. The conversation also steered towards the reason Banksy wanted to save Weston-super-Mare. One woman told me that he had visited the area quite a bit during the summers as a kid.
It was then I realized that Banksy’s artwork is deeper than just the paint on the wall or door. Part of Banksy’s art is wanting people to ask questions – about the piece, about the area, of and about the people, of and about yourself and most of all about Banksy.
I wasn’t able to hunt down all of the Banksy’s in one day due to the time I spent with the people at the Cider House. In hindsight, I still would have chosen to stay at the Cider House enjoying the company of the locals then continuing on my hunt. This I think is Banksy’s true genius. He wants you to stop and spend time where the art is not just take a picture of it and post it on social media.
Take The Money & Run-Located in Easton a short bus or car ride from the Center of town you will find one of Banksy’s earliest pieces of art created before he started using stencils. Tucked away in the carpark of the Montpelier Health Centre you will find Take the Money and Run. A collaboration with local street artist Inkie and Mobz.
Cats & Dogs-Located in Easton on Robertson Road you’ll find another of Banksy’s early works, Cat and Dogs.
Masked Gorilla- accidentally white-washed over by the owner of the building in 2011. The Masked Gorilla has since been restored to a ghostlike form of the original. It is located beneath the Jalalabad Islamic Center Sign tucked into the gate post next to the entrance of the New Testament Church.
The Girl with the Stick- you will need access to a car or hop on a bus from Bristol Temple Meads (#376-) leaving every 20 minutes – to get to one of Banksy’s newest creations. Located 14 minutes from central Bristol on the backside of Bridge Farm Primary School (see satellite imagery) you will find The Girl with the Stick. Given as a gift to the students for naming a new building after Banksy.
The End of A Journey: Hunting Banksy’s for me was not just about acquiring juicy social media material. For me it was was about hunting Bristol, talking to the people and discovering the vast history of this ever evolving cultural city.