Banksy’s infamous Dismaland opened on the 21st August 2015, when after weeks of speculation, the bemusement park was officially revealed to the public. The exhibition took place on an abandoned lido in Weston-super-mare, where visitors were met with satirical commentary of thought provoking art installations. Open for just one month, Dismaland indulged in an ominous play of the traditional values of Disneyland. Banksy intended for Dismaland to provide commentary on current affairs and issues, by implementing themes that would not be typically included in amusement parks. Dismaland offered art forms that were both politically and socially involved, often engaging the visitors by requiring them to participate.
The park displayed a Cinderella crash scene featuring the remains of a smashed pumpkin, a model pond with boats overflowing with asylum seekers and a riot control vehicle with a children’s slide. These were just a few of the artworks that were displayed around the site. Majority of the pieces acted as critical reflections of our societal structure, as a way of removing the public’s rose-tinted glasses and exposing the reality of our cultural enjoyment. The park employed the help of intentionally unhelpful staff, often seen looking bored and lazy. However Dismaland still proved to be a global phenomenon, attracting visitors from countries all over the world.
The Artworks of Banksy Dismaland
Banksy himself funded the project and contributed 10 of his own works. He then invited 60 other international artists to be involved, successfully employing the help of an entire 58 of them. These included artists such as Jimmy Cauty, Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer, displaying a diverse migration of talent. Pieces from past events and exhibitions were also included, such as Mike Ross’ Big Rig Jig, previously displayed at the 2007 Burning Man Festival. Many of the artworks included distressing imagery, strobe lighting and swear words- leading to the speculation that it may not be an appropriate outing for young children. Banksy stated that the bemusement park featured the ‘best artists I could imagine.’ It is certainly true that Dismaland unified an eclectic mix of artists from around the world and encouraged insight into the production of contemporary art.
150,000 visitors, £20 million and an (Intentionally) Crashing Website
Although Dismaland was only open for a few weeks (closing officially on the 27th September 2015) it attracted over 150,000 visitors. Costing a mere £3 per person for entry, it welcomed 4,000 visitors per day. The exhibition offered 500 walk-in tickets that were available on the day and online bookings, although it was reported that the Dismaland website often crashed. It has since been speculated that these ‘crashes’ may have been intentionally executed by Banksy himself, in accordance with the project’s dysfunctional flare. Dismaland also attracted celebrities and critics alike and received a plethora of response.
With an astonishing 150,000 visitors, Banksy’s project accumulated an estimate of 20 million pounds. The Somerset council has applauded Banksy for his efforts, as the project’s tourist attraction helped to renew the local economy. It has been estimated that hotels and bed and breakfasts within the area saw an increase of up to 50,000 bookings. Whilst farmers and local people took advantage of the opportunity, opening up they’re land as car parking spaces. Transport also seen the effects of Dismaland, with Great Western Railways recognizing huge increase on transport to the website. It is certainly true that Dismaland has not only benefitted the public as an informative artistic project, but in many other ways as well. In some ways this could be seen as ironic; with the function of anti-consumerist art practice encouraging the growth of the local economy.
The Results of Banksy Dismaland
Since its closure, Dismaland has been shortlisted for the 2016 South Bank Sky Arts Award. Furthermore, it has been reported that all materials and fixtures used in the production of Dismaland, have been sent to the Calais Refugee camps to help build shelters. The derelict lido has since been booked for various other art and performance events. Its success has demonstrated the potential of the venue and helped to set an example for other upcoming exhibitions.
The project has also been recognised for its innovation and success within the local community, helping to pump out new opportunities for residents and business in the surrounding area. Dismaland was profoundly successful in its endeavor to exhibit art forms that escaped from the confines of traditional and social values. The project commanded the attention of the contemporary art world, with a vast 150,000 visitors in only one month, it was not to be ignored. The public was given the opportunity to engage with a myriad of artistic production, and in true Banksy fashion, all visitors were required to exit through the gift shop.