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Banksy's 'Dismaland' Living Up To Its Name With Ticket Debacle

An abandoned castle looming above a scummy moat; a dead Cinderella hanging limply from her crashed pumpkin carriage; a grim reaper hunched over in a bumper car — these are just a few of the highlights of a new "bemusement park" in England.

The park, an art exhibit called Dismaland, was commissioned by the mysterious British graffiti artist known as Banksy and opens Saturday in the coastal city of Weston-super-Mare. He calls it a "festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism."

The park opened to journalists on Thursday and to local residents on Friday. The general public is allowed in starting Saturday, and demand for the 4,000 tickets available per day through the Dismaland website is already high — perhaps too high.

On Friday, the site buckled under the Web traffic. According to the BBC, a Dismaland spokesperson said the site had received more than 6 million hits.

Entrance to the park billed as "the UK's most disappointing new visitor attraction" costs only 3 pounds (about $4.70), and due to the early trouble with online ticketing, it is already living up to the hype. In fact, there is rampant speculation on Twitter and elsewhere that the failed ticket-buying portal is all part of the Dismaland experience.

Banksy is best known for his often subversive artwork on streets from New York City to Gaza; Dismaland includes his own works and those of more than 50 selected artists from all over the world.

The installations include a woman on a bench being attacked by seagulls, a killer whale emerging from a toilet to jump though a hoop, and an oil caliphate-themed mini golf course.

In the October issue of Juxtapoz, Banksy writes that the atmosphere of the park is that of a "neglected prison yard." It's a "deadly serious attempt to assemble a show that takes stock of its generation," he writes.

Set in a former pool yard compound, he says, the show is "scrappy, incoherent and self-obsessed, so maybe we're halfway there."

While the name Dismaland is parodied from Disneyland, Banksy says the show isn't meant to target Disney. He even banned anything Mickey-related from the website. What the show is supposed to be is an "art show for the 99 percent who would rather not be at an art show."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Wagner