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With no intention of selling the work, Banksy's Grim Reaper saved for Bristol
Banksy’s Grim Reaper being removed from Thekla (ship and nightclub) in August 2014 are ©Theo Cottle.

BRISTOL.- Workmen took blowtorches to the ship and club venue ‘Thekla’ in Bristol to cut out and remove the artist Banksy’s painting of the Grim Reaper from just above the waterline on the steel hull.

The artist painted the Grim Reaper onto the ship, which is moored in Bristol harbour, around 10 years ago but exposure to the elements is causing ongoing deterioration.

Recognising the artwork’s iconic status and to preserve the image Thekla’s owner, the music promoter DHP Family, has decided to remove it while the boat is in dry dock for general maintenance, which happens only every eight years.

The company approached Bristol City Council about a new home for the Grim Reaper and has arranged to loan the valuable artwork on a long term basis. As soon as it is cut from Thekla’s steel hull on Friday (8 August) it will move to the storage facilities of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. The Grim Reaper will then be assessed for his conservation needs and means of display before going on public show at M Shed some weeks or months later.

George Akins of DHP Family said: “It is great that we have been able to work with Bristol City council to display this iconic Bristol artwork. We really wanted to make sure, that although it is being removed from its intended setting, people could still see it for free and will now get a better view of it.

“To be clear we have no intention of selling the Banksy, we just wanted to preserve the piece of art before it deteriorated too much and we wouldn’t have had another opportunity to do this for a further 8 years.”

Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, said: “I have so enjoyed watching Banksy move from zero to hero! His ‘Grim Reaper’ has been one of Bristol harbour’s more familiar residents on the hull of the famous Thekla nightclub for the past 10 years or so. I would like to thank the DHP Family for entrusting the threatened work to the safe hands of the Bristol Museums team so it can now be preserved for future generations. I much look forward to getting a closer look once the necessary conservation work is complete and it goes on public show at M Shed.”

Thekla is in dry dock for maintenance work until 8 September after which it will return to its former position in the harbour before reopening for bands and club nights on Thursday 11 September.

Scooping the title for “Best Small Venue” in the South West from music magazine NME in 2011 and 2012, the Thekla has played host to some of the UK’s biggest bands including Mumford and Sons, The XX, Two Door Cinema Club, The Futureheads and Foals.

Originally known as the Old Profanity Showboat, the Thekla’s colourful past began following its move to Bristol in 1983 by Ki Longfellow-Stanshall, the wife of celebrated musician Vivian Stanshall. The boat was then opened to the public the following year as a musical showcase, hosting over 240 theatrical productions and various cabaret, comedy and poetry events. It also played a part in the emergence of Bristol’s drum & bass scene before DHP Family took over ownership in 2006.

Thekla welcomes around 100,000 visitors a year and as well as music, boasts an enviable line up of DJ residencies and late club nights.

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