There are some artists who defy categorization or even description. Banksy is one such artist. Often oversimplified as a street artist, graffiti artist, or basic revolutionary, Banksy is far more.
Anonymous, the England-based creator is equal parts filmmaker, activist, vandal, and world-class street artist. In fact, Banksy has, as one expert so aptly explained, “developed an entire art subculture devoted to his works.”
Capable of appearing anywhere at any time (from the world’s largest art auction houses to the streets of New York), the impact of the art is often substantial. This due to the message within the image, the choice of location for the street art or image, and the mystery behind the artist’s identity.
Banksy is known to have initiated his artistic lifestyle through the creation of graffiti. Working throughout the early 1990s, he became part of collaboratives and crews that themselves featured noted creators, such as Inkie. However, before reaching the age of 20, Banksy already realized that vandalizing public spaces, and being caught doing so, was undesirable. He developed a unique stencil form that enabled him to quickly create his art but using multiple layers of stenciling and other media (including street signs, found objects, and more).
Today, Bansky’s work is noted for its satire and even its darkly humorous statements, and most will comment on politics, art, or society. Philosophy is also an element of the work.
As noted, Banksy is famous as much for the appeal of the work as its controversial nature. For example, the nine pieces painted on walls in the West Bank area of Palestine were viral hits overnight and caused Banksy’s reputation to surge. The 2010 film “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” also drove his fame farther as it tracked several graffiti artists and their nightly escapades in London and other cities.
Even with a documentary, however, there is almost nothing known of Banksy as he remains entirely anonymous and keeps his face concealed. This has helped his celebrity grow since many wish to understand his art by understanding the artist.
Yet, as one expert explained: “Street art fanatics are consistently satisfied with every piece of art he delivers, though he often leaves them wanting more. This tactic carries one's curiosity to explore a completely new perspective or idea, leaving his artistic creations to inspire beginning and advanced artists. This inspiration is also known as the ‘Banksy Effect.’”
Banksy's Graffiti Mural
Expression Through Art…Though He Doesn’t Believe in It
Banksy is famous for saying, “The art world is the biggest joke. It’s a rest home of the over-privileged, the pretentious, and the weak.” This is why his work seems to always offer cultural criticism, targeting social and political issues. It is also why his “Girl with a Balloon,” was designed to self-destruct when it sold for more than a million dollars at auction. With the fall of the auctioneer's gavel, a motor inside of the image’s bulky frame sprang to life, and the painting fed itself through a series of blades. It was all caught on camera, and because of a malfunction or intentional block, the entire painting was not shredded.
"Girl with a Balloon" by Banksy being shredded.
Whether or not we can get to ever know who Banksy is, we can understand his concepts and emotions through the art he so carefully plans and creates. His stencil designs have inspired a whole new style of street art, and his work (and images inspired by it) appear often on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and streetwear as well as in museums and other displays around the globe. Something far more than a pop culture sensation, Banksy is a new form of artist. One who inspires other artists, like Mr. Brainwash, but who turns his art into a much broader expression. His 2015 “Dismaland Bemusement Park,” for example, was dismantled and turned into housing at the Calais Migrant Camp in France.
Expression through art is the thread that links Banksy’s many endeavors, and it is why wearing his imagery says so much.