Banksy is the most controversial street artist in the world.
His artworks propelled him to 3rd place in the most popular and most famous artists list according to the British public. He is more popular than Michelangelo: whilst 87% of the Brits have heard of the artist who painted Mona Lisa, 91% have heard of Banksy.
Who is Banksy?
No one knows who Banksy is.
The name is an alias that the artist had chosen when he was starting out, doing graffiti on neighborhood walls in Bristol, the UK, in the 1990s.
Over the years, there have been many speculations related to Banksy’s true identity. There’s nothing more exciting than a mystery and many tried to solve it.
Some believed Robert Del Naja (a.k.a. 3D), a member of the trip-hop band Massive Attack was the man behind the famous stencils.
Or comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the virtual band Gorillaz.
Every claim was denied, the artist’s identity remains unknown to date.
No one has seen Banksy since his last face-to-face interview in 2003.
In 2010, TIME magazine selected Banksy in its list of the world’s 100 most influential people and this is the photo he provided:
Banksy’s artworks convey an anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment message
Banksy’s body of art illustrates the artist’s activism.
His artworks challenge people’s perceptions of value and are also political statements.
His favorite themes focus on world poverty, freedom, disobedience, the role of art, escape and environmental issues.
Graffiti is the medium; satire is the language.
Here are some of his most iconic artworks:
The Flower Thrower is one of the most iconic stencils by Banksy. He painted it in 2003, in Jerusalem, on the wall that separates Israel from Palestine. It illustrates the artist’s anti-war message.
Girl with Balloon is one of Banksy’s most recognizable artwork. It was originally stenciled in London, in 2002 and in 2017, it was chosen as the nation’s favorite artwork in an online poll.
Napalm Girl is Banksy’s reimagining of the famous 1972 photograph The Terror of War taken during the Vietnam War. It is one of the artist’s most powerful images, a social criticism toward American commercialism.
Banksy’s Ostrich CCTV was created in 2011, in London and is a criticism of the government’s extensive surveillance of its citizens. London is Europe’s most surveilled city and the only Western city in the top 10 most surveilled cities in the world (a list composed of Chinese cities).
The shredded Girl with Balloon (sold for $1.4M) and Devolved Parliament (sold for $12M)
Banksy believes art should be free and public. His artworks are on city walls for everyone to see.
But if you want to own an original Banksy, you don’t have to be a billionaire. The artist has been releasing limited edition signed prints of his trademark murals or other visuals for many years.
Art experts say his market is on the rise.
In 2006, the artist recreated his famous Girl with Balloon using spray paint on canvas. He encased the canvas into a large gilt frame which contained a custom built-in shredding device, in case the work was ever sold at auction. Twelve years later, the canvas was auctioned off by Sotheby’s for $1.4 million. Apparently, the shredding device was fitted with a long-distance remote-controlling device, because the second the auctioneer dropped the gavel, the frame began shredding the painting under the bewildered eyes of everyone at the auction.
Yes, the artist destroyed his art. What is the painting worth now?
The buyer kept the half-destroyed painting and paid full price for it. One year later, the shredded painting went on display in a museum in Germany.
The owner argues that the painting has been the subject of performance art.
Is the painting worth more as a result? That remains to be seen.
Banksy painted Devolved Parliament in 2009. The painting, a depiction of British politicians debating in the House of Commons replaced with chimpanzees, is oil on canvas and was first shown at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. In 2011 a private collector bought the painting.
In 2019, the painting was auctioned off by Sotheby’s for the record price of $12 million.
Banksy, from underground to mainstream
Banksy started as a graffiti master but went beyond that to become a multimedia activist artist.
He is a prankster using sharp satire to convey his messages.
His art is revolutionary and is encouraging revolution in the art world.
Now in his late 40s, Banksy has a lot more to say and the right tools to convey his thoughts in such a way as to have a powerful impact on the public.
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