“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that’s only if it’s done properly”.
Banksy is a world-renowned street artist who has single-handedly transformed graffiti culture. The rise of Banksy in the early 2000s signalled an unprecedented acceptance of street art in contemporary art and culture, which has garnered Banksy both global attention and success. Celebrated for his satirical stencilled graffiti, Banksy’s work often provides socio-political commentary on current events. The true identity of the British artist is unknown and his anonymity not only permits him to make bold political statements, but also creates an intriguing air of mystery around the artist. His graffiti incorporates freehand painting, spray painting and a unique stencilling method, which has become his signature style. Rendered in a limited range of striking colours, Banksy’s memorable designs have become a favourite amongst critics and collectors alike.
Banksy first started creating street art in the early 1990’s under the pseudonym ‘Robin Banx’. Quickly dropping this alias in favour of the shorter and more memorable moniker, ‘Banksy’, the artist began his career close to home in Bristol, England.
Immersing himself in graffiti culture, he started spray-painting walls across the Southwest. With graffiti being considered vandalism as opposed to art at the time, Banksy was soon subject to close encounters with the law and at the age of 18, was nearly apprehended by police whilst spray-painting a train in Bristol. To avoid being caught in the future, Banksy knew that he had to devise a quicker method of creating his art. Stencilling presented a practical solution for creating and replicating his work quickly, and soon his bold and iconic stencils defined his practice. On the topic of his method, Banksy reportedly said: “as soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars”.
By 1999, Banksy had moved to London and was beginning to garner national attention. The unknown street artist was making waves, and comparisons to the graffiti greats Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring soon began to circulate.
In 2001, Banksy had his first ‘exhibition’ in Rivington Street, where he and a few fellow artists created a makeshift gallery space in a convened tunnel. However, it was not until July 2003 that Banksy truly had his breakout show. Titled, ‘Turf-War’ and hosted in a former warehouse in Hackney, the show was the first of many to astonish the London Art Scene. Over time, Banksy’s continued success led to the re-positioning of street art as a widely accepted form of contemporary art.
Since then, Banksy has continued to astound and amaze with a plethora of public stunts that have intrigued people globally. From sneaking art inside the Tate Gallery (2003) to shredding an artwork live at auction (2018), Banksy is arguably one of the most provocative and renowned street artists in the world. He has created iconic works that have been replicated all over the world such as Girl with Balloon or Flower Thrower.
With many iconic works like Girl with Balloon or Flower Thrower being replicated in locations across the globe, the market for Banksy’s work continues to thrive, with his international success being widely reflected in his impressive auction results. In March 2021, Banksy made global headlines when Game Changer went under the hammer for over £16.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction, with all proceeds going to charity. Most recently, in October 2021, Banksy marked his latest milestone by breaking his existing auction record when Love Is In The Bin returned to auction, fetching a staggering £18.6 million.