Banksy is a British street artist whose identity remains unknown. It is believed to have been born in Bristol, England, around 1974. He rose to prominence for his provocative stencilled pieces in the late 1990s.
Although the artist still remains in full anonymity, it is believed that Banksy was born in Bristol in 1974. Drawing his inspiration from the Bristol Underground art scene he claims that his unique style, combining standard graffiti writing with stencil work, grew out of the desire to create large scale, visually impressive works in a limited time frame. Often containing elements of political and social commentary his satirical creations range from murals to sculpture and installation. Banksy’s first solo show was held in 2002 at the Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 gallery, and by 2003 he was commissioned to design the cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today his work appears internationally, and often in places of conflict such as the nine ironic images he painted on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier.
Banksy’s work is often categorised as bold striking stencilled images that are combined with slogans often of a political or satirical nature. His images can be interpreted a critique of modern western society often depicting images of war, hypocrisy and greed. Due to this politicised aspect to his art, common subjects of Banksy’s stencils include children, apes, rats, policemen and members of the British royal family. He is also known for his use of copyrighted material and the subversion of classic cultural images. Such as Banksy’s version of Monet’s renowned series of water lilies paintings, in which two shopping trolleys drift in the water front of the famous bridge.
Banksy has often used extreme, alternative formats to bring his art to its audience, from modifying street signs, printing his own currency, to illegally hanging his work in such prestigious institutions such as the Louvre, by using this range of urban, gorilla style tactics Banksy may have been attempting to open up a dialog, discussing the issue of what is considered to be art and the way this art is chosen to be displayed. “TV has made going to the theatre seem pointless, photography has pretty much killed painting,” he says, “but graffiti has remained gloriously unspoilt by progress.”
In the summer of 2009 Banksy attracted over 300,000 visitors to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to witness his exhibition. As his art started appearing on an international scale, Banksy also drew the attention of the media worldwide. This international fame transformed his work from what was previous viewed as acts of vandalism to highly desired pieces of art. His impact on the growing interest and rising prices of graffiti street art has been unprecedented; the trend was even described as “the Banksy effect” by Journalist Max Foster. The hype surrounding Banksy escalated with the realise of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. Although accusations have been made regarding Banksy’s identity, it still remains a mystery. To this day he continues to spread his special brand of thought provoking and provocative graffiti across the walls of our cities.