Street artist Banksy (1974 – ) is England’s answer to America’s Basquiat and is probably more famous because of his global reputation and more accessible imagery. Banksy’s satirical and distinctive stenciling technique combines works of political and social commentary with irreverent dark humour. His work can be seen on walls from post-hurricane New Orleans to the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank.
“How illegal is it to vandalize a wall”, asks Banksy in his website introduction to his Wall project, “if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice?” The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km – the distance from London to Zurich.
The “guerrilla artist” Banksy has helped to transform the security barrier that surrounds the town with more than a dozen satirical images painted, plastered and sprayed on to the 8m-high (26ft) concrete.
Always controversial, Banksy inspires admiration and provokes outrage in equal measure yet his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many Banksy art images have moved off public walls and into private collections in the form of limited edition prints. These often generate large sums at auction houses.
Even the Banksy works that have remained on walls have been sold at auction, with some being dismantled. A house in Bristol with Banksy artwork on the outside was sold through a real estate agent as: ‘a work of art with a house attached’
Banksy is also known for his headline-making stunts, such as hanging a version of the Mona Lisa – but with a smiley face – in the Louvre, Paris.
In 2005 Banksy’s version of a primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife whilst pushing a shopping trolley was found in the British Museum, London. Upon discovery, the museum added it to their permanent collection.
At London Zoo, he painted “We’re bored of fish” in seven-foot high letters in the penguin enclosure.
London’s Westminster City Council stated in October 2008 that the work “One Nation Under CCTV”, painted in April 2008 would be painted over as it was graffiti. The council said it would remove any graffiti, regardless of the reputation of its creator, and specifically stated that Banksy has no more right to paint graffiti than a child. The work was painted over in April 2009.
Banksy mentions in his book, ‘Wall and Piece‘, that when he was first starting to do graffiti he was always too slow and was either caught or could never finish the art in one sitting. So he devised a series of intricate stencils to minimize time and overlapping of the colour.
Hordes of photographers descended on Essex Road, Islington, London after Banksy painted a large mural on a wall. It depicts three children pledging allegiance to a flagpole with a Tesco plastic bag flying from it.
Banksy said “When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.”
Despite much speculation, Banksy’s true identity remains unknown. Here are a few more of his more famous street images:
Image Credits: banksy.co.uk / boredpanda.com / Google Images
Information Credits: Wikipedia / banksy.co.uk / boredpanda.com