Known across the globe as the most controversial street artist in the world, political activist Banksy has spent 20 years plastering walls in cities across the world. One of the most important things we know about Banksy is that his identity remains a secret, even after over 20 years of working in the art industry. Often politically charged, his work reacts to complex issues such as war, capitalism, establishment, politics, and poverty. These striking images, which are occasionally combined with slogans or catchphrases to convey a particular message, are brimming with dark humor.
Banksy’s work grew out of the Bristol underground scene and it is believed that this is where he created his first piece. After nearly being caught by the police, he discovered that stencils were a faster and more efficient tool for street art. The most common form of Banksy street art, prints, and paintings that are for sale are the stencils. These are often in the form of multi-layered stencils and/or combined with other media sources, such as spray-paint.
Throughout his career, Banksy has been known to perform and create notorious stunts that often make headline news. Most recently, in the Summer of 2020, he released a video during the COVID 19 pandemic. The video shows Banksy dressed up in a hazmat suit, stenciling a sneezing rat inside a tube carriage. The stunt was an attempt to encourage us all to wear a mask. The video was viewed by millions of people but was removed the next day by Transport For London.
One of Banksy’s most well-known stunts was performed back in 2018, when “Girl with Balloon” was sold at Sotheby’s in London for £1.4 million. Soon after it was sold, an alarm sounded inside the frame and the canvas passed through a shredder that was hidden within the frame, shredding a portion of the artwork. Sotheby’s confirmed that the self-destruction of the work was a prank by Banksy himself. As with all of his work, these stunts set out to disturb and challenge how we think on current issues.
The “Banksy Effect” has catapulted him to stardom, with records smashed frequently in auction houses across the world. This alludes to the artist’s ability to turn outsider art into the cultural mainstream. Although Graffiti art remains illegal, his work continues to raise critical questions about the lines and boundaries between public art and vandalism.
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