Weston Super Mare, August 2015
A Family-themed Park Unsuitable for children
When: August-September 2015
Where: Weston Super Mare, England
Where: Weston Super Mare, England
Dismaland was a temporary art project organized by Banksy, constructed in the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, England.
Prepared in secret, the pop-up exhibition at the Tropicana, a disused lido, was “a sinister twist on Disneyland” that opened during the weekend of August 21, 2015 and closed permanently on September 27, 2015 (36 days later).
Banksy described it as a “family theme park unsuitable for children.” The aesthetic of the “bemusement park” was potentially inspired by the “Dismayland” series of paintings created by American artist Jeff Gillette, who also participated in the exhibition.
Banksy created ten new works and funded the construction of the exhibition himself. The show featured 58 artists Banksy invited to participate. 4,000 tickets were available for purchase per day, each priced at £3 each.
It welcomed 150,000 visitors over the five-week period it was open. After it closed, the building material for the project was repurposed for shelters for refugees in the Calais Jungle where Banksy also added murals.
Local residents of Weston Super Mare were told that a Hollywood company called Atlas Entertainment was using the location to film a crime thriller called Grey Fox. Signs reading “Grey Fox Productions” were posted around entrances to the site to try to keep the ruse alive and keep suspicion/curiosity at bay.
Pictures of its construction began surfacing online in early August 2015, and included a “fairy castle and massive sculptures.” Holly Cushing, whose name appeared in the credits of a documentary about Banksy and who is often reported to be his manager, was sighted at the construction site before the opening, which made the project less of a “secret.”
Several large artistic structures were displayed at Dismaland: a large Ferris Wheel by Banksy, Horse Scaffolding Sculpture by Ben Long, a twisted truck sculpture, and Big Rig Jig by artist Mike Ross which was previously shown at Burning Man in 2007.
Works by 58 artists, including Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, Jeff Gilette, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Barminski were featured in the park. Banksy said he contacted the “best artists I could imagine” to exhibit, yet two artists declined his offer to be included in the exhibition.
For one exhibit, the books of British criminal, novelist and former politician, Jeffrey Archer were burned daily in a fire pit. Every one of the estimated 150,000 visitors to the park entered through a fake cardboard security check point created by artist Bill Barminski.
Banksy’s coin operated Dream Boat, created for Dismaland, was donated by the artist to the NGO Help Refugees (now known as Choose Love) in the run-up to Christmas 2018 to help them raise money for their charitable efforts. The artwork was displayed in Help Refugees’ London pop up shop and members of the public could pay £2.00 to enter a competition to guess the weight of the piece. The person whose guess was closest to the actual weight would win Dream Boat. The ‘guess-the-weight’ competition was seen as ‘deliberately school fair’ in style
Juxtapoz Magazine Interview
Dismaland is the latest innovation in family light entertainment by the graffiti artist Banksy. Installed in the center of an unfashionable British seaside town frequented by low-income families, Banksy describes it as “the perfect art audience.” The location is a former lido comprising four acres of walled seafront compound, which in recent years has come to more closely resemble a neglected prison yard, an atmosphere Banksy has endeavored to preserve by declaring that none of the installation crew were allowed to bring a broom.
This is an art show for the 99% who would rather not be at an art show. It features a fairytale castle, a boat pond, arcade games and extensive water gardens, all given a distinctly modern twist. But beyond the Mickey-taking is a deadly serious attempt to assemble a show that takes stock of its generation. “It’s scrappy, incoherent and self-obsessed, so maybe we’re halfway there,” says Banksy.
This is certainly not a “street art” show—an art form Banksy describes as “just as reassuringly white, middle class, and lacking in women as any other art movement.”
The roster of artists ranges from Jenny Holzer, winner of the gold medal at the Venice Biennale, to Ed Hall, a pensioner who has spent forty years producing every major trade union banner from his garden shed.
After the show concluded, the materials were sent to the Calais migrant camp, and used to create 12 dwellings, a community area, as well as a children’s playground.