The town has had an aerodrome since 1917. This was in part because at the start of the 20th century, the area played its part in the race to take to the air. The artist Jan Lavezzari, who had originally studied engineering, tested a double lateen sail hang glider from the Merlimont sand dunes in February 1904. He was followed there that Easter by Gabriel Voisin, who made a trial flight in a glider plane modelled on that of the Wright Brothers and over a few seconds was airborne for 50 metres.
In October 2018, one of Banksy's works, Balloon Girl, was sold in an auction at Sotheby's in London for £1.04m. However, shortly after the gavel dropped and it was sold, an alarm sounded inside of the picture frame and the canvas passed through a shredder hidden within the frame, partially shredding the picture. Banksy then posted an image of the shredding on Instagram captioned "Going, going, gone...". After the sale, the auction house acknowledged that the self-destruction of the work was a prank by the artist. The prank received wide news coverage around the world, with one newspaper stating that it was "quite possibly the biggest prank in art history." Joey Syer, co-founder of an online platform facilitating art dealer sales, told the Evening Standard: "The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02M they paid last night, this is now part of art history in its shredded state and we'd estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m+." A man seen filming the shredding of the picture during its auction has been suggested to be Banksy. Banksy has since released a video on how the shredder was installed into the frame and the shredding of the picture, explaining that he had surreptitiously fitted the painting with the shredder a few years previously, in case it ever went up for auction. To explain his rationale for destroying his own artwork, Banksy quoted Picasso: "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge". (Although Banksy cited Picasso, this quote is usually attributed to Mikhail Bakunin.)  It is not known how the shredder was activated. Banksy has released another video indicating that the painting was intended to be shredded completely. The video shows a sample painting completely shredded by the frame and says: "In rehearsals it worked every time...".
In January 2011, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film Exit via the Gift Shop. In 2014, he was awarded Person of the Year at the 2014 Webby Awards. As of 2014, Banksy was regarded as a British cultural icon, with young adults from abroad naming the artist among a group of people that they most associated with UK culture, which included William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth II, David Beckham, The Beatles, Charlie Chaplin, J. K. Rowling, Elton John, and Adele.
Among the structures photographed prior to the opening were a large pinwheel by Banksy, Horse Scaffolding Sculpture by Ben Long, and a twisted truck sculpture, Big Rig Jig by artist Mike Ross which was previously shown at Burning Man in 2007. Works by 58 artists, including Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, Jeff Gillette, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Barminski were featured in the park. Banksy said he contacted the "best artists I could imagine" to exhibit, with two artists turning him down.