An artist has hit out at a council for charging visitors to see an iconic Suffolk Banksy artwork that is part of an ongoing exhibition, as she believes it should be free.

The Sandcastle Girl, a painting world-renowned street artist Banksy sprayed onto the side of a Lowestoft building during his 2021 "Great British Spraycation", is on display at West Suffolk Council-owned Moyse's Hall as part of the Urban Frames: Mutiny in Colour exhibition, with adult tickets on sale for £7.

Woodbridge-based artist SOPHIE believes the painting, and others like it, should be free to view, the way it was intended by the artist.

She said: "Graffiti is all about free admission and making art accessible to people, so yes I think it should be free.

"I think the important highlight is the council who are charging when they also threaten the law to graffiti artists.

"There is a big conversation to have around this and it is an important one. It is sort of like, hang on a minute if we are in celebration of this, why are we stopping others?

"Just because someone has paid a high price for a graffiti artwork by Banksy, does that justify it to be more worthy than a graffiti art on the wall in the town?

"I am sure he [Banksy] is chuckling to himself that a council that would've had graffiti artists arrested are now charging for people to see his work."

East Anglian Daily Times: Woodbridge-based artist SOPHIEWoodbridge-based artist SOPHIE (Image: SOPHIE)

West Suffolk Council worked with partners including art owner Brandler Galleries and two other venues, the National Horseracing Museum and the Haverhill Arts Centre, which are each hosting different artworks throughout the summer, to bring this exhibition to the district. 

The exhibition as a whole features over 300 works from some of the world's most renowned contemporary artists, including Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin as well as lesser-known artists like Connor Brothers, My Dog Sighs, Pure Evil and Stik.

These artists are also able to make money from the sale of the prints and postcards at the exhibition.

Large costs are associated with putting on such an exhibition, including the transport, security and insurance of the art which, in some cases, requires specialist handling. 

Cllr Ian Shipp, Cabinet Member for Leisure for West Suffolk Council, said: "West Suffolk Council only runs one of the venues and without the low ticket price to help cover costs this internationally important exhibition would not have been held at all.

"Partners have deliberately kept ticket prices much lower than if it was held elsewhere and worked with venues across West Suffolk to put on this unique exhibition so as many people could see it as possible.

"The ticket prices helps pay for the costs to the venue of putting on the exhibitions as well as helping to keep the art and heritage that is already there.

"The venues and the actual owner of the art that is loaning the items keep a percentage of the ticket prices to cover costs.

"Through our families and communities work we work with local artists and the people visiting Mutiny In Colour also benefit local businesses.

"Unfortunately public finances are such that councils do not get additional money for keeping important venues such as Moyse’s Hall and Council Tax only covers 20 per cent of the cost of services.

"Making this free would probably have meant it could not happen at all and would mean even less money to run current and new exhibitions."

The Urban Frame: Mutiny in Colour exhibition, where Sandcastle Girl is showcased, will run at Moyse's Hall until October 1.

Tickets are £7 per adult and £3 for 12 to 18 year olds. Under 12s get free entry.