Banksy

(b. 1974)

About The Artist

Infamously shrouded in anonymity, Banksy is perhaps today’s most recognizable figure in contemporary street art. His socially conscious works feature subversions of everyday scenes and characters, and have been found around the world amidst ritz and rubble alike.

Believed to have been born in Bristol, U.K., the artist initially operated under the cheeky moniker "Robin Banx" but later modified this to Banksy, which he found easier to sign and remember. He originally painted his graffiti works freehand, but a narrow escape from a police officer left him looking for more expedient options. Recalling the history of stencil work among revolutionaries and dissidents, Banksy adopted his signature stencil method and found that it cut his execution time in half.

Banksy held his first London show in 2001, and in 2003 his exhibition "Turf War" drew considerable critical attention. Over the following two years, Banksy’s public profile escalated as he carried out ‘performance pranks’ at major art institutions, including the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2005, the artist travelled to Bethlehem. His series of politically charged tableaus, rendered on the West Bank barrier wall, attracted international notoriety and made "Banksy" a household name. Upon his return to London, he resumed his confrontation with the art establishment, mounting the exhibition "Crude Oils" which reimagined canonical examples of ‘high art.’

After a series of provocative and highly publicized exhibitions, Banksy ventured into film with Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010). While some have characterized the film as a hoax, it nonetheless was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category. Bansky was included in Time magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s one hundred most influential people, and the following year the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles featured his works heavily in their expansive survey of graffiti and street art.

More recently, Banksy made international headlines when his work, Girl With Balloon (2006), self-destructed at a Sotheby’s auction in late 2018. The work, which had set a new auction record for the artist when it hammered at $1.4 million, astonished onlookers when it partially shredded through its modified frame. The following day Banksy posted a video on social media addressing the incident — he claimed that years before, he had installed the shredder within the frame as an insurance policy against the work’s profit potential at auction. Nevertheless, experts have estimated that the mechanical "malfunction," whcih left the painting partailly intact, nearly doubled the value of the work as a whole.

While some critics are highly skeptical of Banksy’s flirtation with the art market, the artist embraces the irony: "I love the way capitalism finds a place," he says, "even for its enemies."

Ellsworth-Jones, Will. "The Story Behind Banksy." Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, Feb. 2013, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-story-behind-banksy-4310304/?preview=_page%3D1&page=1.

Reyburn, Scott. "Banksy Painting Self-Destructs After Fetching $1.4 Million at Sotheby’s." The New York Times, 6 Oct. 2018.

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