About us
Banksy Photo

Banksy

British Graffiti artist, political activist, and film director

Born: c. 1965 - 1974 - Bristol, England

Banksy Timeline

Quotes

"If you have a statue in the city centre, you could go past it every day on your way to school and never even notice it, right - but as soon as someone puts a traffic cone on its head, you've made your own sculpture."
Banksy
"A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to."
Banksy
"A wall is a very big weapon. It's one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with."
Banksy
"It doesn't take much to be a successful artist - all you need to do is dedicate your entire life to it."
Banksy
"Banksy's conceptual humour works just as well in the gallery context, yet I don't think it has a long life there, as its jokes are so one-dimensional and soulless."
Jonathan Jones
"It adds up to an experience that keeps pummelling you with surprises. To pick the most ambitious example, the ruined castle at the centre of the ruined lido, the one whose moat is filled with unwanted supermarket trolleys and dog poo, turns out to house a most spectacular reimagining by Banksy of the Cinderella story."
Waldemar Januszczak
"We are all Banksy."
Robert Del Naja

"Become good at cheating and you never need to become good at anything else."

Banksy Signature

Synopsis

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, English graffiti artist and international prankster Banksy has managed to become one of the world's most recognized artists while remaining relatively anonymous. Staying true to the credos of street art, he's built a celebrated body of work, both permanent and impermanent, that utilizes satire, subversion, dark humor, and irony to create resonant social, political, and humanist messages for the masses on a populous and public level. His style is universally familiar, founded on a signature stencil aesthetic that has elevated him from mere man with a spray can to a highly creative artist in his own right. He is responsible for catapulting guerilla work into the mainstream as a viable form of art.

Key Ideas

Banksy's artistry lies in his ability to use humor and sardonic wit to trick viewers into contemplating the underlying seriousness of his messages about capitalism, advertising, politics, and humanity. It is this very sense of innocent whimsy coupled with daring, glaring truths about our times that lift him to a role as potent social mediator all under the guise of art.
Because of the volatility and impermanence of Banksy's chosen canvas, i.e. the street and improvisational pop-up public places, he remains true to guerilla art's philosophy, being that the commodification of art is a blasphemous way to validate an artist within only a specific social sector or market.
Anonymity has been Banksy's modus operandi, largely because it removes the status of artist as celebrity and instead forces a focus on the artwork. It also allows for the freedom of telling one's unapologetic truth without regard to consequence.
In an ironic twist of fate, Banksy's subversive mien has only furthered his crossover to mainstream acceptance as the world takes note of his signature style and lack of any noted ego drive toward artistic recognition. The artist himself has become a bridge not unlike the ones his artwork aims to build.
Because graffiti is illegal, Banksy's work continues to raise questions in the social sphere about the lines between public art and vandalism. If his work on the side of a building becomes a collectible, protected piece while another less known street artist is jailed for performing a similar action, what does this signify about the hypocrisy afforded to fame?

Biography

Banksy Photo

Childhood

Very little is known of Banksy's youth, as he continues to keep his true identity a secret. It is reported that he played (as goalkeeper) with the Easton Cowboys football club during the 1990s and early 2000s. According to Will Simpson, another long-time member of the Easton Cowboys, Banksy went on tour with the team to Mexico in 2001 and painted a number of murals in the communities they played in, including one painting that was "raffled off to raise money for water projects in Chiapas in southwestern Mexico."

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Banksy Biography Continues

Important Art by Banksy

The below artworks are the most important by Banksy - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Kissing Coppers (2004)

Kissing Coppers (2004)

Artwork description & Analysis: In this iconic image, two (seemingly male) police officers in full, typical British uniforms are depicted kissing, in what appears to be a loving embrace. This work was originally spray-painted on the side of the Prince Albert pub in Trafalgar Street near the downtown core of the city of Brighton. Before its creation, one of Banksy's associates approached the pub owner on his behalf to seek permission for the work. The pub owner says, "My first thought was, 'oh no'. I thought we'd get in loads of trouble for it." But to his delight, after its creation, a group of uniformed officers appeared in front of the pub to view the piece and proceeded to take pictures. In 2011, the piece was replaced with a copy protected by a Perspex case, while the original was flown to the United States to be sold at auction.

The piece can be read in many ways. In one respect, Banksy is advocating for a sexual-identity accepting society by placing icons of authority in a pro-gay position. His use of policemen, rather than ordinary citizens, is intriguing, because the very subjects of his tender portrayal are often the ones to working to eradicate his vandalism. While some believe that he is poking fun at policemen, showing them in a vulnerable, intimate moment, others read the work more positively, as showing a human side to the police force, and emphasizing the strong bonds that exist on the police force between partners and teammates. The work is an undeniable testament to Banksy's use of irony to challenge us to build a bridge of understanding between expected enemies of ideology.

Spray paint - Originally painted in Brighton, England. Now in private collection

Rage, the Flower Thrower (2005)

Rage, the Flower Thrower (2005)

Artwork description & Analysis: This work, now covered and protected by a Perspex overlay, features a man dressed up in what we associate with traditional riot gear, with a bandana obscuring his face, and his cap on back-to-front. His stance is one of a person about to lob a Molotov cocktail; he's taking aim and is ready to throw his weapon. However, instead of a weapon, he holds a bunch of flowers (which are the only part of the mural to appear in color.) This piece is located on a wall on the side of a garage in Jerusalem on the main road to Beit Sahour, Bethlehem.

By substituting a weapon with a bunch of flowers, Banksy is advocating peace instead of war, and he opted to install this message of peace in a high-conflict area. The work also carries the message that peace comes with active hard work. The bouquet of flowers in this work, in addition to symbolizing peace, life, and love, may also be understood as commemorating lost lives in an age old religious conflict. It is a fine example of Banksy's use of art to relay messages of social importance.

Stencil and spray paint - Bethlehem

Napalm Girl (2004-05)
Artwork Images

Napalm Girl (2004-05)

Artwork description & Analysis: Again, Banksy has taken a pre-existing image - in this case an iconic photograph from Vietnam in 1972, of a girl - Kim Phuc - fleeing from a napalm attack on her village. The original photograph was taken by associated press photographer Nick Ut and has developed into a short hand for the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Banksy has isolated the image of the horror-stricken girl (originally surrounded by a few other clothed children and seven soldiers running down a road away from the site of the napalm attack) and flanked her with Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald. These two instantly recognizable, smiling characters, when juxtaposed with the image of Napalm Girl, give the image a very twisted and sinister feel.

Both Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald are two family-friendly faces of American capitalism, the same country that dropped Napalm on Vietnam. Banksy's work then becomes a critique of not just America but also of capitalism. The girl's horror-stricken face is juxtaposed against the two characters' big, bright smiles. In this simple image, Banksy shows both the fun, carefree facade of American culture, and the reality that America also has a very dark, underbelly which drops bombs on people, and both commercializes and glamorizes war. Banksy once stated that "The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It's people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages."

Screenprint on paper

More Banksy Artwork and Analysis:

Show Me the Monet (2005) Unwelcome Intervention (2005) One Nation Under CCTV (2007) Mona Lisa Bazooka (2007-2008) Power Washer (2008) Hammer Boy (2013)


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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Banksy
Interactive chart with Banksy's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Nick Walker
Inkie
3D
Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Blek le Rat

Personal Contacts

Kato
Tes
Shepard FaireyShepard Fairey

Movements

Street art
Pop ArtPop Art

Influences on Artist
Banksy
Banksy
Years Worked: 1990 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Mr. Brainwash
Ron English

Personal Contacts

Kato
Tes
Shepard FaireyShepard Fairey

Movements

Street art

Useful Resources on Banksy

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall Recomended resource

By Will Ellsworth-Jones

Banksy: Art Breaks the Rules

By Hettie Bingham

Banksy in New York

By Ray Mock

Banksy. Myths & Legends: A Collection of the Unbelievable and the Incredible

By Marc Leverton

More Interesting Books about Banksy
The Story Behind Banksy

By Will Ellsworth-Jones
Smithsonian Magazine
February 2013

The Law of Banksy: Who Owns Street Art? Recomended resource

By Peter N. Salib
The University of Chicago Law Review
2015

'This is not a Banksy!': Street Art as Aesthetic Protest

By Susan Hansen
Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies
2015

Whose Place Is This Anyway?: The Israeli Separation Barrier, International Activists and Graffiti

By Robert R. Sauders
Anthropology News
March 2011

Exit through the Gift Shop Recomended resource

Feature length documentary film directed by Banksy, nominated for a 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature

How to Sell a Banksy

Feature length documentary film by Alper Cagatay and Christopher Thompson

$aving Banksy

Feature length documentary film directed by Colin Day

Banksy does New York

Feature length HBO documentary film

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Alexandra Duncan

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Alexandra Duncan
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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