John Florens | May 21, 2024

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Banksy is a British graffiti artist, political activist and painter whose identity is largely unknown. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams mix black humour with graffiti, using a distinctive stencilled technique. His political and social commentary has graced the streets, walls and bridges of cities around the world.

Banksy's work grew out of the Bristol underground scene, where artists and musicians worked together. According to author and graphic designer Tristan Manco, Banksy "was born in 1974 and grew up in Bristol, England. The son of a photocopier mechanic. He trained as a butcher, but during the 'great Bristol aerosol boom' of the late 1980s he became hooked on graffiti." Experts say his style is similar to that of Blek le Rat, who started working with stencils in Paris in 1981 and was a member of the anarchist-punk band Crass, who were responsible for the stencil graffiti campaign of the London Underground in the 1970s and 1980s.

Banksy is known for his contempt for the government for labelling graffiti vandalism as vandalism, just because it doesn't make them a profit. He therefore makes his work public in public spaces, mostly on walls, but also makes installations. Banksy himself does not sell any photographs of his works; although art auctioneers have been known to try to sell his works on the spot, leaving the hassle of removing them to the highest bidder.

Banksy's first film Exit Through the Gift Shop debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as "the world's first street art disaster film". It was also screened at the Berlinale in February 2010. In a video message to the audience (in a distorted voice and faceless), he said that his "goal was to make a film that could make a difference in graffiti like Karate Kid made a difference in martial arts." The film was released in the UK on 5 March 2010. Since then, there has been a debate about whether the film depicts the real actions of real characters or whether it is just another hack by Banksy.

Start of its activities (1992-2001)

Banksy started out as a freelance graffiti artist in 1992-1994 as a member of Bristol's DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ) with Kato and Tes. He was inspired by local artists and his work was part of the wider Bristol underground scene.

From the beginning he also used stencils for his work, and in 2000 he turned to stenciling completely after discovering how much less time it takes to complete a piece. He says he switched to stenciling when he was hiding from the police under a railway train and discovered its stencilled serial number. From then on, stenciling became his main tool, as it was much quicker to work with, and it developed his trademark style, which has made him more widely recognised in Bristol and London.

Banksy sometimes combines his striking and humorous stencils with slogans. The message was usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment. The pictures often show rats, monkeys, policemen, soldiers, children or elderly people.

Exhibitions (2002-2003)

On 19 July 2002, Banksy's first exhibition debuted in Los Angeles at the 33 1

In 2003, Banksy painted animals for his exhibition "Turf War", held in a warehouse. Although the RSPCA found that the animals were in good condition, an animal rights activist chained himself to the railings.

Later he turned to the so-called "subversive" paintings. He repainted Monet's Water Lily Pond, for example, with city rubbish and shopping trolleys floating among the lilies. But he also repainted Edward Hopper's Nighthawks with the characters looking at a British football hooligan wearing Union Flag underpants and throwing an object through a café window. These oil paintings were shown during a 12-day exhibition at Westbourne Grove, London, in 2005.

With Shepard Fairey, Dmote and others, they organised an exhibition in a warehouse in Alexandria, Sydney for the conference in 2003. About 1500 people attended.

From £10 banknotes to Barely Legal (2004-2006)

In August 2004, Banksy produced a large quantity of fake and parodic £10 banknotes, replacing the Queen's face with the image of Princess Diana of Wales and changing the inscription from "Bank of England" to "Banksy of England".

Someone threw a bunch of them into the Notting Hill Carnival crowd this year, which some people tried to spend in local shops. The notes were also featured in Pictures on Walls' exhibition 'Santa's Ghetto'. The banknotes have since sold for £200 each on eBay. A bundle was also dropped into The Reading Festival area. And thanks to Pictures on Walls, 50 signed posters of 10 banknotes were sold for £100 each in memory of Princess Diana. One was bought by London auction house Bonhams in October 2007 for £24,000.

In August 2005, during a trip to Palestine, Banksy painted 9 pictures on the wall between Palestine and Israel, including a ladder leaning against the wall and children punching a hole in the wall Banksy held an exhibition called Barely Legal, billed as a "3-day vandalized warehouse extravaganza" in Los Angeles over the weekend of September 16. His Los Angeles room installation included a live elephant painted in the colour and pattern of wallpaper.

Banksy also created works that depicted Queen Victoria as a lesbian. He also has satirical works incorporating works by Andy Warhol and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Banksy Effect (2006-2007)

After Christina Aguilera bought an original painting of lesbian Queen Victoria and 2 other works for £25,000, on 19 October 2006, her painting of Kate Moss was sold at auction for £50,400 at Sotheby's London. The 6-screen print of the model, painted by Andy Warhol in a style similar to Marylin Monroe's, sold for five times the estimated price. At the same auction, a green Mona Lisa stencil tearing paint was sold for £57 600. In December, the journalist Max Foster coined the term "the Banksy effect", illustrating how other street artists have become successful thanks to Banksy's success.

On 21 February 2007, the London auction house Sotheby's sold three works, achieving the highest sale price ever: over £102,000 for Bombing Middle England. Two of his other graffiti works, Balloon Girl and Bomb Hugger, sold for £37,200 and £31,200 respectively, well above their estimated value. In the following days, three more Banksy works sold for outstanding prices: Ballerina with Action Man Parts for £96,000, Glory for £72,000 and Untitled (2004) for £33,600. To coincide with the second day of the auction, Banksy updated his website with a picture of an auction house with people bidding on a picture that says "I can't believe you idiots are actually buying this shit".

In February 2007, the owner of a house in Bristol with a Banksy painting on the wall decided to sell the house through the Red Propeller art gallery after receiving offers because prospective buyers wanted to remove the mural. The painting was listed as an accessory to the house.

In April 2007, London Transport repainted Banksy's iconic painting of a scene from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, where Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are depicted holding bananas instead of guns. Although the image was very popular, the company said that the graffiti "creates a general atmosphere of carelessness and social decay that encourages people to violence" and that their team was "made up of professional cleaners and not art critics". Banksy recreated the image. The actors were no longer holding bananas, but real weapons, but they themselves were dressed in banana costumes. Banksy also paid tribute to a 19-year-old British graffiti artist, Ozone, who was hit by a Tube train in Barking, East London, on 12 January 2007, along with some Wants artists. The picture showed an angel in a bulletproof vest holding a skull.

On 27 April 2007, another Banksy work sold for a record price at auction: Space Girl & Bird sold for £288,000, twenty times its value, at Bonhams in London. On 21 May 2007, Banksy was awarded the "Greatest living Briton" art prize. As expected, Banksy did not accept it, remaining anonymous. On 4 June 2007, it was reported that Banksy's artwork "The Drinker" had been stolen. In October 2007, most of his work was auctioned at Bonhams for more than double its starting price.

Also this year, Banksy published a statement on his website. He quoted the text of the statement as if it were a diary entry by Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin, which is on display at the Imperial War Museum. It describes how, at the end of the Second World War, after the liberation of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, a boatload of lipstick helped people regain their humanity. The statement was soon replaced by Graffiti Heroes #03, which describes Peter Chappel's 1970s graffiti research when he worked to free George Davis from prison. On 12 August 2009, he quoted Emo Philips in a manifesto on his website: 'When I was a kid, I prayed every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that God doesn't work like that, so I stole one for myself and prayed for forgiveness".

Some of Banksy's paintings can be seen in the film Child of Man, including the stencil of two policemen kissing.

In March, a stencil graffiti attributed to Banksy appeared on the Thames Water tower in the Holland Park roundabout. It depicted a child painting "Take this Society" on the wall. Hammersmith and Fulham council spokesman Greg Smith called the artwork vandalism and ordered its immediate removal, which was carried out by council workers within three days. The following weekend, on 3-5 May, Banksy held an exhibition in London called The Cans Festival. The exhibition took place in Leake Street, a street underpass under London Waterloo station. Invited artists such as Blek le Rat, Broken Crow, C215, Cartrain, Dolk, Dotmasters, J.Glover, Ben Eine, Eelus, Hero, Pure evil, Jef Aérosol, Mr Brainwash, Tom Civil and Roadsworth, who were also stencil graffiti artists, sprayed their own works on the walls.

In late August 2008, to commemorate the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the related dam failure disaster, Banksy spray-painted a series of graffiti on the walls of New Orleans buildings that had been vacant since the disaster. And shortly afterwards, he painted a hanging Ku Klux Klan member on the wall of an abandoned petrol station in Birmingham, which was quickly removed.

His first official New York exhibition, or "fake store," the "Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill," opened on October 5, 2008. "Pet Foods

The exhibition depicted animatronic animals such as the mother hen watching over her tiny Chicken McNuggets dipping herself in barbecue sauce, or the beaded rabbit wearing make-up in the mirror.

Westminster City Council said in October 2008 that the "One Nation Under CCTV" sign would be painted down as it was graffiti. The council said that it would remove all graffiti regardless of the creator and specifically pointed out that "Banksy has no more right to graffiti than a child". Robert Davis, chairman of the council's Planning Committee, told The Times newspaper, "If we were to overlook that, we could say that every child with a spray can creates a work of art." The work was painted in April 2009.

In December 2008, the Banksy painting "The Little Diver" was vandalised in Melbourne. The painting was protected by a layer of clear plastic, but silver paint was sprayed behind the plastic and the words "Banksy woz ere" (Banksy was here) were written on it. The painting was almost completely destroyed.

In May 2009, Banksy announced that he would be represented by Pest Control and that his new work would be available only from Pest Control.On 13 June 2009, Banksy's 'UK Summer Show' opened at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, the largest exhibition to date, with over 100 works and 78 new works. Reaction to the show was positive, with over 8,500 visitors in the first weekend. And the exhibition was visited 300,000 times over its 12 weeks. In September 2009, Banksy's work, which parodied the royal family, was partially destroyed by Hackney Borough Council in an accidental incident when a letter requesting permission was sent to a previous address of the owner. The painting was commissioned for the 2003 Blur song "Crazy Beat" and the current owner, who had given permission for the painting to be done, reportedly burst into tears when he saw the work being painted. In December 2009, Banksy created 4 paintings on global warming for the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. One of the paintings, entitled "I don't believe in global warming", is half submerged in water.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film partly about Banksy, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 24. To celebrate the screening, the artist created several works in the Park City and Salt Lake City area.

In February, The Whitehouse Pub in Liverpool sold for £114,000 at auction with a picture of Banksy's giant rat on the side.

In March 2010, his work "Forgive us our Trespassing", which depicted a praying boy with a halo around his head, was placed in a London underpass as a promotion for Exit Through a Gift Shop, but the operators had the halo removed. A few days later an unknown graffiti artist repainted the halo, which was eventually removed. In April 2010, following an order by Melbourne City Council, a graffiti removal group also inadvertently painted over a Banksy painting of the famous parachuting rat. A council spokesman said that they would also retrospectively check permits for "famous or significant" artwork to prevent similar incidents.

In April 2010, coinciding with the premiere of Exit Through the Gift Shop in San Francisco, 5 of his works were shown in various locations around the city. Banksy reportedly paid a Chinatown building owner $50 to use his wall for his stencils.

Seven new Banksy works appeared in Toronto in early May 2010, although most were immediately repainted or removed. Also in May, to coincide with the film's premiere, Banksy left two works in Warren, near Detroit, and three in Detroit. Shortly after the Detroit piece, which depicted a young boy holding a red paint can with the caption, "I remember when all this was wood," 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studio removed the piece and placed it in their gallery. They claimed they did not want to sell the piece, only to protect it. They also attempted to remove the Warren "Diamond Girl" work, as evidenced by the demolished wall around it.

Also in 2010, Banksy inspired an intro to the Simpsons episode "MoneyBART", which focuses on exploitation, child labour and modern-day slavery. The opening shots depict people working in deplorable conditions and using endangered or mythical animals to create elements of the episode and promotional items for the programme. His name also appears a few times in the opening lines of the episode, plastered on walls.

Exhibition at the Kunsthalle - Exit Through the Gift Shop (2012)

In 2012, an exhibition was held in Budapest in honour of Banksy at the Kunsthalle. Works by major Hungarian street art artists - DirtyDan, Dorkja, DuplexG, flow deco, Diktátor, Halr, infopapa, Liberthi, Miss KK, Olaj, Oliver Arthur, Riez József, void, Vokha - adorned the walls of the basement (Mélycsarnok) of the Kunsthalle. The title of the exhibition (Exit Through the Gift Shop) led to dissenting voices calling for the exhibition to be closed (not opened), although no one claimed that Banksy's work was on display. A Hungarian dubbed version of Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film attributed to Banksy, was also shown at the exhibition.

"When you go to an art gallery, you're just a tourist looking at a few millionaires' trophies."

Regarding his personal reputation, Banksy stated, "We don't need any more heroes; we just need someone to take us out of recycling." Despite this, in relation to his artwork, Banksy has taken responsibility for some striking pieces of art, including:

When asked about his technique, Banksy said: "I use whatever I can. Sometimes it's just drawing a moustache for a girl in an ad, sometimes it's sweating for days over a complicated drawing. Efficiency is the key." Stencils are traditionally drawn by hand or printed on acetate sheets or cards before being cut out by hand. Due to the secrecy of Banksy's work and identity, it is uncertain which technique he uses to create his stencils, although it is assumed that he uses a computer to create some of the images. In his book Wall and Piece, he mentions that he started with graffiti but found it too slow and either got caught or could never finish the work all at once.

"There is nothing we can do to change the world until capitalism collapses. Until then, we must go shopping to console ourselves."- Banksy, Wall and Piece

Banksy's works also address a range of political and social issues, including anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-authoritarian, anarchist, nihilistic and existentialist themes. Furthermore, his works often satirise greed, poverty, hypocrisy, boredom, despair, absurdity and alienation. Although Banksy's work is based more on visual representation and iconography, his books also contain political commentary. In his list of "People You Should Shoot," for example, he lists "fascist hooligans, religious fundamentalists, and people who write lists of who you should shoot." He also jokingly stated that "Sometimes I get so sick of the state of the world that I can't even finish my second apple pie."

Banksy's real identity is anyone's guess, but it is thought that his name is either Robert, Robden, Robin Gunningham and his date of birth is 28 July 1973 (according to the Daily Mail.)

Simon Hattenstone of Guardian Unlimited is one of the few people who has been able to interview Banksy face-to-face. Hattenstone describes him as "a cross between Jimmy Nail and British rapper Mike Skinner" and "a 28-year-old man wearing jeans and a T-shirt, he had a silver tooth, a silver necklace and silver earrings". In the same interview, Banksy also revealed that his parents believed their son was a painter and decorator. In May 2007, an extended article by Lauren Collins of The New Yorker revived the debate about Banksy's identity in relation to a 2004 photograph of the artist taken in Jamaica during the Two-Culture Clash project.

In October 2007, a story appeared on the BBC website which included a photograph of Banksy at work, allegedly taken by a pedestrian in Bethnal Green, London. The story said that Tower Hamlets Council in London had decided to treat all Banksy's work as vandalism and remove it. In July 2008, The Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed that Banksy's real name was Robin Gunningham. His agent did not confirm or deny this.

In May 2009, the Mail on Sunday again claimed that Banksy's name was Gunningham, based on the fact that the animal on the artist's latest drawing of a rat, which has become his emblem, bears the inscription "Gunningham". Banksy himself claims this on his website: "I have no comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as 'good at drawing' doesn't sound like Banksy to me". Among other things, there is speculation that Swiss artist Maître de Casson could be Banksy. Maître de Casson denies this on his website.

In 2004, Banksy walked into the Louvre in Paris and hung a picture of the Mona Lisa on the wall, only with a yellow smiley face.

"Going through the process of having your painting selected is quite boring. It's much more fun to go and put your own up."

Peter Gibson, a spokesman for Keep Britain Tidy, said that Banksy's work was mere vandalism, and Diane Shakespeare, an official of the same organisation, said "We are concerned that Banksy's street art glorifies what is in fact vandalism".

In June 2007, Banksy built his own Stonehange out of plastic portable toilets at Glastonbury Festival. The installation was nicknamed "Portaloo Sunset" and "Bog Henge" by festival goers.

In 2010, a minor graffiti war erupted between Banksy and an artist, King Robbo, after Banksy created four new paintings on the wall of a London canal, Regent's Canal. Yes, he did, but in the process he also painted over a classic Robbo graffiti that had existed for 24 years. The repainted image shows a man plastering Robbo's graffiti on a grey wall. Although some people thought it was Banksy's way of paying homage to Robbo, others think it was actually a gesture of defiance. In retaliation, a number of Banksy pieces have been repainted by the "Robbo team" in London and other cities. A spokesperson for Banksy eventually said of the incident, "I did not paint over Robbo's work. I only painted over the part where it says mrphfgdfrhdgf. Otherwise, I find it surreal that graffiti artists are taking ownership of certain places. I would think one of the characteristics of vandals is that they don't respect private property."

Banksy has published several books of his work, paintings and exhibitions photographed in various cities, accompanied by his own writings:

Martin Bull, Banksy helyszínek és túrák: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs in London (2006 - új kiadások 2007-ben, 2008-ban és 2010-ben).


  1. Banksy
  2. Banksy
  3. ^ "Banksy Unveils Valentine's Day Mural in His Hometown of Bristol". Observer. 14 February 2020. Archived from the original on 19 February 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  4. ^ Holzwarth, Hans W. (2009). 100 Contemporary Artists A–Z (Taschen's 25th anniversary special ed.). Köln: Taschen. p. 40. ISBN 978-3-8365-1490-3.
  5. ^ Baker, Lindsay (28 March 2008). "Banksy: off the wall". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  6., részben korlátozott hozzáférés
  7. «Descubren quién es Banksy en una entrevista perdida de la BBC». infobae. 21 de noviembre de 2023. Consultado el 21 de noviembre de 2023.
  8. (en-GB) Simon Hattenstone, « Simon Hattenstone meets Britain's No 1 graffiti artist, Banksy », The Guardian,‎ 17 juillet 2003 (ISSN 0261-3077, lire en ligne, consulté le 31 janvier 2020)
  9. « Banksy Captured by Steve Lazarides », sur (consulté le 31 janvier 2020)
  10. (en) « Banksy has been identified, thanks to mathematics », sur The Independent, 3 mars 2016 (consulté le 31 janvier 2020)
  11. (en) « Is Banksy Actually Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja? », sur Time (consulté le 31 janvier 2020)

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