Banksy (1974) is an anonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, and film director. He was born in a small town in Bristol, United Kingdom. His real name is a mystery, some claim that his first name is Robin Banks or, perhaps, Robin Gunningham. His father worked as a photocopier technician. They decide to move to Bristol, the city where he spent his youth. Job opportunities after leaving school were few, so he thought about accepting a job in a butcher shop. However, that decision would change when he met the so-called ‘aerosol boom’ in the late 1980s.
He spent several years in his training as an urban artist, beginning in the 90s when he was part of the band Bristol’s DryBreadZ, known by its acronym DBZ. Since then, his fame began to increase as soap bubbles.
Banksy is an artist with political postures of a socialist nature. On some occasion, he met some members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and painted them a mural in support of their cause, while painting he had a handkerchief covering his face.
This urban artist published a book called Wall and Street, in which he tells how he ventured into street painting and his feeling about the illegality of art. Because of this, he began to devise a way to carry out his works quickly, to avoid being seen. So, he implemented cardboard templates created by himself, the procedure was quick, he placed them on a base and sprayed them with a spray for cars.
Street Art is appreciated by Banksy, due to its history of rebellion. Its origin occurs in New York in the decade of the 60s, in the African American and Latino ghettos as a reaction to the situation of oppression. Subsequently, the graffiti was derived in more artistic techniques such as the stencil, the poster, the templates or the stickers. Most of the time, these works implicitly or explicitly carry political messages and social criticism.
Banksy’s street works were no exception, he began painting rats all over the streets of Bristol, they expressed in a burlesque way his strong disagreement towards the capitalist system. His thought was strongly influenced by the punk band “Crass” and by the Ad Jammers movement, which deformed official advertising images and created distorted messages, expressing mockery and criticism, of his, his work has always sought social and moral criticism, ironic and satirical, using the technique of template and graffiti.
One of the biggest influence for Bansky has been the Parisian graffiti artist Blek le Rat, he knew him since the 80s and with him, he shared several works. Thanks to him he learned the technique of the template and the spray. After returning from Paris, increased street interventions, followed by other images that continued criticizing the social hypocrisy, printed in mailboxes, sewers, and gates. He made a majestic mural, called Naked, on the wall of the Park Street clinic that invited reflection on sexual diseases. Subsequently, he would paint many walls of color and social criticism in Bristol and London, afterward.
His best-known creations are: the policemen who kiss, the Monalisa with the bazooka or the Indians chased by a supermarket cart. Many of these works were financially supported by Steve Lazarides, a photographer who documented Banksy’s early exploits during his youth and who later helped him build the Internet portal where both hung all the street works they did. Thanks to this, many works that have been erased survive in memory.
Lazarides and Banksy started organizing the famous stunts (acts-attack) in which they painted the walls of the museums clandestinely to express their thoughts. For Instance, at the Natural History Museum in London, he placed a stuffed rat on a poster, in the British Museum, he placed a piece that contained a supermarket cart in a hunting scene, as a manifestation against animal exploitation, and in New York on a MOMA wall, he posted a portrait of a vintage woman wearing an anti-gas mask.
In the year 2000, he decided to establish an individual exhibition in a particular restaurant, the Severnshed; with this exhibition, he achieved fame, admiration, and popularity among people and street artists who had never observed his creations.
Seven years later, in 2007, he would exhibit one of his most impressive creations made in the walls of Gaza and Cisjordan. “The Wailing wall” in Cisjordan was intervened by the artist’s paintings. In this work, the images of girls wanting to escape from the wall through balloons were shown. It is a protest against the wall. His recognition has been such that there is a tourist route to enjoy his works.
Bansky has made other outstanding works around the world such as the imitation of the emblematic work of Michelangelo, to which he added a bulletproof vest, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers totally withered. He also made a representation of a black child with the crown of a well-known fast food chain. In addition, the exhibition Versus Bristol Museum held in his hometown in 2009.
Bansky’s popularity generated many questions, critics claimed that it was incoherent that an artist who claims to be anti-establishment and opposed to capitalism, sell the most expensive works of the market, that’s why some street artists accused him of selling his work to the system he criticized so much. For example, his work Space Girl & Bird (paint made with spray on a sheet of steel) sold approximately half a million dollars. Months later, Bonham’s auction house offered ten of his works for a total of half a million pounds, about 700,000 euros.
Overwhelmed by legal trade, in 2013, Banksy opened a street stall in Central Park to sell his works, sold at about $ 60 each. It really did not have any results. So, he chose to travel to New York to set up an illegal exhibition called Better out than in, every day he created a different work in the presence of the spectators.
The artist would launch in 2010 a documentary called Exit Through the Gift Shop. The documentary generated a lot of curiosity from the people who wanted to know about his mysterious identity, but they did not succeed. The documentary was nominated for the Oscars, among other awards such as the Independent Spirit Awards or BAFTA awards, in addition to getting excellent reviews in newspapers such as Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Sun-Times.
Several years later, Banksy created a new mural, a parody of the picture Girl with a Pearl Earring, which he named: Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, days after the work was stained with black paint in a clear act of criticism towards Banksy. This situation had already happened with his piece “Art Buff” which was desecrated with a huge penis.
In 2016, the first exhibition of Banksy’s work in Istanbul, titled The Art of Banksy, was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of Turkey. The exhibition served as the assembly for the inauguration of the new Global Karaköy gallery. This exquisite exhibition shared with the audience the most intimate world of the artist.