Banksy has weighed in on the Syrian refugee crisis with a mural, as well as shelter, for refugees in Calais, France.
Banksy’s involvement began this past summer, when he took over an abandoned seaside resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, and turned it into Dismaland, “The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction.”
Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, on the Bristol Channel, is a town where Banksy enjoyed swimming in his younger days. After the city council of Weston agreed to let him use the building, Banksy reached out to other artists to help him fill the space.
One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition, was that he invited many female artists to take part. “… this is not a street art show,” he said in a Juxtapoz interview, “There are women in it.”
Touted as a Bemusement Park, one of Dismaland’s un-winnable games was trying to steer boats of refugees to safety with an ineffectual steering wheel.
Fifty eight artists, from around the globe, were invited to participate in the not-really-for-kids theme park. More than 4,000 visitors a day, from all over the world, viewed the exhibit, which ran for five weeks during the summer.
Ticket sales were so brisk, that the Dismaland ticket website crashed on the first day of sales. There was some speculation that the crash was a hoax, part of the Dismaland experience.
Besides Banksy posters and prints for sale, there were t-shirts and mugs in the gift shop and even a small tool kit for opening poster frames at bus stops, in order to replace the existing advertisements with your own message and art work.
After the close of Dismaland, Banksy took lumber and fixtures from the dismantled park and shipped them to the Port of Calais, France. His crew built shelters for the refugees in the Calais camp. About 6,000 immigrants, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, live in the camp that is, sadly, called The Jungle.
Banksy’s crew transported lumber and fixtures to help shelter refugees in Calais, France. He calls the project DismalAid.
In addition to the shelters, Banksy painted a mural of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, at the camp. Banksy accompanied the work with a rare public statement, to challenge the perception that immigrants are a drain on the economy:
We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over seven billion dollars a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.” —Banksy
Some enterprising refugees, whose tents are near the painting, have covered the work and are charging 5 euros to visitors who want to view the work.
There are a few ironies about the Steve Jobs image; although Jobs’ father was from Homs, Syria, Jobs was born in California and put up for adoption. He never got to know his father. Another irony is that Jobs was on the Walt Disney Board of Directors after Disney bought Pixar. Nevertheless, Banksy got his point across.
Banksy is one of our favorites at Vertu. It’s not easy to keep his art on our walls for long, but we do have Choose Your Weapon, Banksy’s homage to Keith Haring, in the gallery at this time.