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The idiosyncratic and brilliant street artist, who remains to this day anonymous, has captured the attention and the hearts of millions of people worldwide. Their unique style has been a staple of the street art movement since the 1990s and their work shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Their art is completely political, melding dark humor and biting satire, which cuts to the core of society’s base assumptions, allowing their art to shock and at the same time educate via metaphor and analogy. The anonymous artist Banksy is easily the most famous street artist and he continues to thrive to this day.
While to this day the person known as anonymous artist Banksy has yet to be identified, we can still understand and chart much of the person’s history and repertoire. Banksy began their artwork in 1990 as a freehand graffiti artist, under the umbrella Crew of the Bristol DryBreadZ. Inspired by a plethora of local street artists and interested in breaking into the underground scene, Banksy was heavily influenced by local talents such as the artists Nick Walker, Inkie, and 3D. Around this time and while tagging many areas around Bristol, Banksy met the photographer Steve Lazarides who would become Banksy’s agent. Lazarides would take this opportunity to sell anonymous artist Banksy’s art through his various channels.
Realizing the limitations of freehand street art, Banksy would change their format to utilize stenciling in order to speed up their works of art. By taking much less time to create a piece, the likelihood of being caught by the police diminished considerably and allowed them to create a plethora of pieces all around London and Bristol. Apparently, the inspiration for the idea came to them when they were being chased by the police and saw a stenciled serial number on the underside of a rubbish lorry.
Utilizing these stencils for their artwork, Banksy has made numerous pieces that are scattered around the UK, all of which usually contain an anti-war, anti-establishment, or anti-capitalist message. Their work endures to this day, and Banksy continually presents their art around the world not only in street art form but also with galleries and exhibitions.
Beginning in 2002, anonymous artist Banksy’s exhibitions started attracting the attention of all manner of fans and critics. On June 19, 2002, Banksy held an exhibition in Los Angeles at the 33 1/3 gallery owned by Frank Sosa. Existencilism was curated by the gallery and numerous other advocates and was a successful introduction into the artist’s work.
In 2003, the exhibition Turf War, which was located inside a London warehouse, Banksy painted numerous animals and gave an interview to the BBC. Due to the nature of the material, the event did not go un-protested, and an activist chained herself to the railings to protest the mistreatment of animals. The RSPCA had previously declared the conditions suitable for the animals. During this timeframe, anonymous artist Banksy also produced a number of counterfeit currency notes that were almost identical to the ten-pound note. The difference? Gone was the face of Queen Victoria and instead the face of Princess Diana was implemented. The text “Bank of England” was likewise replaced by “Banksy of England.” These notes were distributed at the Notting Hill Carnival and were attempted to be utilized in the surrounding shops. To date, they have been selling for ~200 pounds on eBay.
2006 marked the beginnings of the highs of Banksy’s success. Gone was the underground, unknown artist tagging random buildings and instead Banksy as an international sensation began. During this window of time, Banksy would travel to Palestine and the west bank, where they would stencil all along the Bethlehem Wall, providing their unique blend of political commentary and ironic imagery to the state.
In auction, Banksy performs admirably and their work have sold for prices that have by all rights exceeded expectations. “Bombing Middle England” sold for 102,000 pounds, for example, and Balloon Girl for 37,200 pounds. Combined, Banksy’s artwork has sold for hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds, causing the artist to be quite well compensated for their work.
In addition to having success at auction, anonymous artist Banksy has also created some enduring and brilliant large-scale installations. Banksy’s Stonehenge, for instance, was one such installation featuring a mock Stonehenge build from portable toilets. Another such installation was the ‘murdered’ telephone booth, which was quickly removed by Westminster officials.
One of the most successful and large-scale projects that Banksy was involved in was the Dismaland project. This temporary installation was constructed in Somerset, England, and was a satiric and sinister look at Disneyland. It was called the “family theme park unsuitable for children.”
In this unique exhibition, visitors were treated to a truly dismal theme park experience. Seen as a bleak mirror to the saccharine look of Disneyland, the inverted experience tried, like its name, to be terrible and bleak. A dystopian Disneyland to the end, the installation was a critical success and was shortlisted for the South Bank Sky Arts Award.
Love them or hate them, Banksy has put a name to the broad and underground movement of Street Art and has distinguished themselves significantly as the forerunner of the art form. Whether stenciling a piece on the side of a road or creating an avant-garde masterpiece installation, anonymous artist Banksy has captured the minds and imagination of the artistic community around the world. From the streets of London to the United States, to Palestine and various other cities around the world, people know who Banksy is and enjoy their art quite extensively. The enduring quality of their work ensures that the name Banksy will be remembered for a long time to come.