Banksy is perhaps best known for his unique ability to both remain a secret and become an international icon at the same time.
This graffiti genius, activist, and all-around wavemaker was named in the Time magazine's list of 2010’s 100 most influential people and in true Banksy fashion, submitted a photo of himself with a paper bag covering his head. Very few, if any, actually know what the artist looks like today since he hasn’t done a face-to-face interview since 2003.
And yet, Banksy still remains one of the most popular street artists in the world today, and for good reason. He demands control of his own narrative and has a loyal fan base that doesn’t care to find out who he is, happily following his rise from graffiti outlaw to commissioned artist, painter, and even filmmaker, thanks to Academy Award-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Banky's Academy Award-nominated Documentary
Banksy keeps tabs on the authenticity of his work and ensures his identity is protected through his own organization, Pest Control, and mostly uses e-mail to communicate and control the information that people have about him and his work. Of his distinct contemporary stencil approach, Banksy says:
“As soon as I cut my first stencil, I could feel the power there. […] stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and stop wars.”
Banksy tells the story of his discovery of stencil work at age 18 when he was nearly caught by transport police while painting a train with some friends. Everyone else made it safely to the car and drove off, leaving Banksy hiding under a truck that was leaking oil for over an hour. After spending some time staring at the undercarriage, he noticed the stenciling on the fuel tank, and saw it as his way to still “bomb” cities with graffiti, but to do so in a lot less time to reduce the risk of getting caught.
They say that inspiration strikes at the most random times, so it’s not surprising that Banksy adopted his style while hiding from the cops under a leaking truck. However, what is surprising is the fact that this creative mastermind has made such a name for himself in the art world and around the globe with something as simple, and yet so uniquely complex, as his abstract stencil work.
Banksy's Stencil Graffiti Work
The Man and the Mission
Banksy does artwork that is provocative, political, and attention-grabbing, and he does this for good reason. In one of his more famous works, you see a black and white painting of a boy praying to a paint can, kneeling just as if he were talking to God. This simple, understated painting is layered on a wall of colorful graffiti with little direction or purpose, creating almost a sense of calm in the chaos.
This is a statement of how Banksy views himself and his work in the world of graffiti and street art. While he is stirring the pot and making a statement, he’s doing so in a simple, often understated way that gets a lot more attention than most brightly-colored, often overdone pieces.
Banksy's Street Art
Banksy grew up admiring the stylings of Blek Le Rat and is notorious for occasionally using old ideas for new inspiration. He’s been on the scene since the 1990s and has also worked with the well-known street artist Inkie. The concept of Banksy’s work is almost always philosophical and sometimes satirical, combining dark humor with unique messages to spread his mission and express his mindset.
During the early 2000s, Banksy even made a pilgrimage to the West Bank, where the Bethlehem Wall was then graced with nine works of art by the infamous stealth street artist. He also began selling paintings and stencil prints at auctions throughout England, helping him break into the commercial art scene as a bestselling and record-breaking artist for the time.
But, Who is He?
While many people do want to know who this Banksy character really is and why he insists on secrecy, the information is not likely to be found. Plenty of people have looked, including media hounds that are notorious for finding out things that no one is supposed to know. And yet, most still don’t know the identity of this street art genius.
Banksy's Ape Street Art
Some people wonder if Banksy would be nearly as famous if people knew who he was. Unfortunately, that’s something that people may never know. There are some theories about his identity, but not even his own family actually knows who Banksy really is. Of course, as time goes on and his art becomes more popular, the focus becomes less on the man and more on the masterpiece, which has surely carved out a place in the history books for this socially conscious, subversive street artist.