Banksy’s Thekla Grim Reaper finds new home at M-Shed

The artist painted the Grim Reaper onto our ship and nightclub venue Thekla, which moored in Bristol harbour around 10 years ago, but exposure to the elements was causing ongoing deterioration.

Recognising the artwork’s iconic status and to preserve the image we approached Bristol City Council about a new home for the painting. Having arranged to loan the valuable artwork on a long term basis we had workmen cut out and remove the Grim Reaper from just above the waterline on Thekla’s steel hull while the ship was in dry dock last August.

Our Chairman George Akins said: “We just wanted to preserve this piece of art before it deteriorated too much. By working with Bristol City Council we’ve been able to make sure that, although the Grim Reaper is being removed from its original setting, it can still be seen for free and in fact people will now have a better view.

After being cut from the Thekla the painting was moved to the storage facilities of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives and assessed for conservation before its unveiling at M-Shed.

Ray Barnett, Head of Assets at Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives said: “We are very pleased to work with DHP Family to preserve this work of art but also to enable M Shed to continue developing its displays to reflect contemporary, as well as historic life, in Bristol. The Thekla and its associated art has been an established part of the Bristol docks for a long time and many Bristolians will be able to relate to the image but also, by association, to the contribution the Thekla has made to the city’s night life.”

Maintenance work on Thekla has been completed and the ship has been returned to its former position in the harbour and reopened for bands and club nights.

Scooping the title for “Best Small Venue” in the South West from music magazine NME in 2011 and 2012, our Thekla venue 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 we 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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