Banksy’s Anti-Capitalist Dismaland Brings $30 Million to UK Resort Town

The show may critique capitalism, but it is still a moneymaker.

Banksy's twisted Cinderella's Castle at Dismaland. Photo by Florent Darrault, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The runaway success of Banksy‘s thoroughly depressing Dismaland theme park has seen 150,000 visitors—including Brad Pitt—pass through the British resort town of Weston-super-Mare, bringing with them £20 million (roughly $30 million) in tourism trade, according to the BBC.

The huge boost to local businesses is reportedly more than three times as much as the local tourism board initially projected, despite the fact that the project purportedly offers a scathing critique of the capitalist system and money-making theme parks like Disneyland.

The ferris wheel and Banksy's <em>Killer Whale</em> with Ben Long's <em>Horse Scaffolding Sculpture</eM> at Dismaland. Photo by Abigal Owen Curator, Creative Commons <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Generic</a> license.

The ferris wheel and Banksy’s Killer Whale with Ben Long’s Horse Scaffolding Sculpture at Dismaland. Photo by Abigal Owen Curator, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Generic license.

“The show has gone way beyond our hopes,” John Turner, of Visit Somerset, told the BBC. “This has been a global phenomenon of major importance for the region and underlines how important tourism can be in the local economy.”

The announcement for the subversive theme park was met with an impressive demand for online tickets, which are priced at just £5 ($7.50), a striking comparison to Disneyland, which charges $99 for an adult day pass, and $93 for children. But with millions hoping to secure admission to the temporary exhibition, the Dismaland website crashed, causing some to wonder if the frustrating buyer experience was also part of the artist’s dystopian vision.

The project has not been without its controversies: Shadi Alzaqzouq, one of the 60 artists who contributed to the exhibition, was ejected from Dismaland for protesting the inclusion of work by two Israeli artists. Alzaqzouq covered one of his pieces with a sheet reading “RIP Gaza: Boycott Israel,” and lay down in front of the installation, only to be escorted off the premises by security guards.

Nevertheless, the show has been a boon to the local economy, which normally sees a sharp decline in visitors to the seaside town in September. Since Dismaland opened five weeks ago, hotels and restaurants have been uncharacteristically full, and the number of rail passengers has doubled.

Enterprising locals have also cashed in on the Dismaland experience, setting up unofficial parking lots that charge £5 ($7.50). Banksy himself may have even put in an appearance, with British tabloids speculating that the anonymous artist was masquerading as a parking attendant at his own event.

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