Spanish town launches international campaign to lure Banksy to graffiti over reputation as Franco birthplace
IF THE street artist Banksy were to visit the Spanish city of Ferrol, a logical site for his politically charged graffiti might be the house where former dictator Francisco Franco was born.
“I think that would be a fantastic idea. People come here only to see the house where Franco was born and it is an albatross around our neck. I would much prefer them to come and see the Banksy,” said Eduardo Hermida, a painter who organises an annual festival in Ferrol in which artists are invited to create their work on the streets of Canido, a rundown area of the city in the northwestern region of Galicia.
Ferrol is hoping to win Spain's first catalogued work by Banksy at the Meninas de Canido festival - so-named because artists are encouraged to cover the walls with their takes on Diego Velázquez's masterpiece Las Meninas.
But how to contact an artist who never shows their face, let alone sharing a contact address?
To make sure the Bristolian artist sees the invitation, the festival, sponsored by the Galician beer brand 1906, has launched a massive media campaign with the help of sponsorship, taking out advertisements in leading international newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph, as well as billboards in Bristol and London.
The adverts are headlined “Dear Banksy,” and invite the artist to claim his reserved space on a wall ahead of this year’s event on September 2.
“Banksy is a star. Our project is a really local, neighbourhood thing, so we don’t know how to connect him with all of our energy,” said Mr Hermida. “It’s frustrating. We have 250 Meninas on the walls by artists from as far afield as Thailand, but no Banksy.”
Among the international artists to have interpreted Velázquez’s painting are Ting-Tong Chang, a Saatchi Gallery exhibitor, and Spain-based Syrian artist Ali.
Mr Hermida explained that he launched the festival, which also features the work of photographers, dancers, musicians and poets, in 2008 as a response to the gradual decline of an area in a city which used to rely on shipbuilding. “Ferrol’s population is now 67,000, but it was built for double that.” Mr Hermida said that Canido had made a real comeback thanks to the spirit of the festival, with restaurants, bars and boutiques again jostling for space on the streets.
“We are almost out of walls to paint,” he joked. “Banksy must have heard our plea. Now he knows we exist, at least. If he doesn’t come, well that’s his loss. At least, we will have enjoyed the feeling of hope, and there’s always another year.”