British graffiti artist leaves his mark

Brits, tourists line up to see Banksy's work

Blighty has a new media sensation. But don’t expect any info about his true identity.

The graffiti artist known simply as Banksy has seen his first U.K. show become the cultural phenom of the summer in Blighty, grabbing the media’s attention in a way not seen since the Tutankhamun exhibition of 1972.

“Banksy Versus Bristol Museum,” staged in the artist’s hometown of Bristol, has been such a hit that folks have had to wait in line up to six hours to get in. More than 300,000 have seen the show since it opened June 13; tourists from as far away as New York to Tokyo have flooded in.

Part of Banksy’s appeal is that no one knows who he is, although the media have had a field day trying to unmask him. The Daily Mail, for instance, claims to have found his parents, though the couple denies any relation. And the BBC asserts that it found his alleged parents’ former house, with the artist’s first tag in the shed.

Banksy’s brand of anti-capitalist satire also seems in step with the sense of disillusionment spurred by the recession and global conflicts. Besides his trademark stencils, the show includes animatronics, installations and adapted versions of famous artworks, scattered among the museum’s genuine exhibits.

But not everyone appreciates the artist’s sense of humor.

A copy of Michelangelo’s David wearing a suicide vest has stirred the ire of rightwing pundits, who question whether graffiti should be shown in an art gallery in the first place.

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