Weston Super Mare Banksy
Described – perhaps sarcastically – by the artist as ‘a cheerful tribute to the great British seaside towns’, Banksy’s Weston Super Mare features a senior citizen sitting on a bench, his hands folded across his lap, his cane resting next to him, blissfully unaware of the danger that is approaching him in the form of a circular saw cutting its way through the promenade. The artwork appears to be suggesting that even the most comfortable among us are still accompanied by the shadow of death at every turn. Though a dismal prospect, the painting can also be read as an uncharacteristically uplifting message, offering a healthy reminder to make the most of every moment, to stop and take in the view once in a while.
While the man and the bench are depicted in Banksy’s typical black and white stencil style, the long strip of grey and the sky blue background are more reminiscent of vintage British seaside posters. The resort in question here is Weston Super Mare, in North Somerset, where Banksy opened Dismaland. The project was described by the artist as a ‘bemusement park … a family theme park unsuitable for children.’ Open for two months in the summer of 2015, Dismaland was an obvious parody of the institution of Disneyland and featured 58 different artists – including Damien Hirst – who were known for making work that featured strong social and political commentary. From August to September 2015, Dismaland brought in over 150,000 visitors from around the world and £20 million in revenue to the seaside town.
During the exhibition there was a massive surge in popularity for the screenprint Weston Super Mare – originally released by Pictures on Walls in 2003 as an edition of 500 unsigned and 150 signed pieces with eight artist proofs – making it even more collectible today. The image was first seen in a painting by the artist made in 2000 which was exhibited in a restaurant in Bristol.