Banksy only asked Bristol for £1 after demanding CCTV be destroyed

Posted on 17 August 2009
By Andy Johnson
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Banksy charged just £1 for staging an exhibition in his home town Bristol Museum on the condition that all CCTV footage of him installing the show was destroyed.

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the elusive artist, who can fetch up to £300,000 for a single work, agreed to the nominal fee from Bristol City Council even though the exhibition at the City Museum and Art Gallery is his largest ever.

More than 230,000 people have visited the free Banksy Versus Bristol Museum show since it opened on June 13 and there are queues snaking for more than two miles on most days.

The impressive visitor numbers mean the show, which runs until August 31, is on track to become one of the country’s largest exhibitions of 2009. Only six UK exhibitions saw more people through the door during their full runs in 2008.

Bristol City Council deputy leader Simon Cook said: “This is definitely the best pound the city council has ever spent.”

The contract drawn up between the council and a company representing the stencil artist was released online today after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

It shows the museum agreed to destroy all CCTV footage that might have captured the artist installing, viewing or removing his work, which includes a burnt-out ice cream van and a dummy riot policeman, from the exhibition, 30 days after it was shot.

Key areas of the contract were blacked out, including insurance valuations of each exhibit, clauses relating to the costs of staging the exhibition and the name of the company representing Banksy.

A letter, penned by the council’s legal team, said the sections were hidden as they could lead to the discovery of Banksy’s identity.

“This is because disclosure may lead to the identity of the artist being at risk, which is crucial to his commercial interests and the need to maintain confidentiality regarding the special contractual arrangements between the artist and the council.”

Although the contract does not refer to Banksy or the company which represented him in the agreement, it does refer to an organisation called PCO, understood to refer to Pest Control Office, the official organisation for verifying Banksy works.

Only four people at the museum knew of plans for the Banksy exhibition. The rest of the organisation’s staff were told filming was taking place and that they needed to take several days off work.