This past weekend, Dismaland, the anti-Disneyland created by the street artist Banksy, opened in Weston-super-Mare, England. The 2.5-acre seafront installation is a satirical take on a theme park. The show features truculent guards and the work of 60 artists, including Banksy, Damien Hirst, and Jenny Holzer.
In what is Banksy’s largest project to date, the creation of the dystopian “bemusement park” was kept secret prior to its opening. Curious local residents were told by Banksy spokespeople that the unused lido was being reconstructed for a Hollywood crime thriller.
The Dismaland website states that the project is a “festival of art, amusements, and entry-level anarchism.” In a statement to the press, Banksy explained, “I guess you’d say it’s a theme park whose big theme is theme parks should have bigger themes.”
The pop-up installation showcases a sculpture of a dead Cinderella draped out of a crashed pumpkin carriage, a distorted Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” a dilapidated castle, and a “oil caliphate-themed golf course.”
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The whimsy of the artwork does not obscure the political commentary of the show. One of the featured games at Dismaland focuses on the ongoing European migrant crisis. Another sculpture depicts an orca leaping out of a toilet into a hoop held by a wetsuit-clan manikin.
Dismaland is Banksy’s first major exhibition in years, and a spokeswoman for the show said that the venture was self-funded.
Banksy, known for his anti-capitalist politics and postmodern perspective, playfully invites Dismaland attendees to engage with subversive topics in a space that is both familiar and grotesque. While Banksy has faced critique in recent years as his street art has appreciated in value—often selling for six figures—the artist continues to showcase his ability to impact public perspective by raising controversial issues through satire.
Entry to Dismaland costs £3 and the show is scheduled to run through September 27th.—Kathleen Ebbitt