Once relegated to subway trains, abandoned buildings, and seemingly inaccessible areas of the urban landscape, street art has emerged in recent years as a critical element in political commentary on current events. This is in no small part due to the unprecedented rise of Banksy – his ubiquity and creativity have garnered him an international following from the general public as well as cultural and governmental institutions. His work has taken many forms and his fame, public validation and commercial success have helped pave the way for other street artists to emerge as key players in the global art market – this impact has been coined the ‘Banksy effect’.
Like Andy Warhol before him, Banksy has redefined what art is to a lot of people who probably never felt they appreciated art before. By being an iconoclast, and in the process becoming a mythic hero for a lot of people, Banksy has become an incredible icon in our society. The artist blurs the line between graffiti and art. What to some is vandalism is gallery worthy to others. Even a couple of decades ago, no one could not even imagine that painted murals would become such noticeable pieces of art. Although Banksy was not amongst the pioneers of street art such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Shepard Fairey, through their contribution he has developed and extended it to the new horizons of imagination and created a lucrative market for the movement.
Without Banksy, other urban artists might have sold their pieces and might have had their work make it to galleries, but his movement brought rapid attention to street art, thus heightening the success of other artists in street art media. Banksy created a new brainwave of artistic creation. He has had many works sold in auctions for record-breaking prices. His satirical painting of the House of Commons invaded by chimpanzees sold in the Sotheby’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale for £9.9 million in 2019, the painting had a sale estimate of £1.5-2 million. More recently, he donated three oil paintings spotlighting the European migrant crisis to raising money for a hospital in Bethlehem. Mediterranean Sea View 2017, as a tryptic which sold for £2.23 million at the Sotheby’s evening sale From Rembrandt to Richter.
This monetization of street art becomes particularly important for street artists, the art world and even Bristol, England, where Banksy’s graffiti has become a huge cultural and economic benefit to the city. Street art has become one of the few areas of genuine growth for the auction houses and works laced with reference to popular culture are high in demand for consumer collectors. Street art has become the personification of movement, freedom and spontaneity and art inspired grafitti has taken stage. This burgeoning popularity has increased the demand for works by the likes of Invader, KAWS and STIK to name a few.
Street art disrupts the world we inhabit and imposes itself into our lives and spaces in order to challenge or comment on the status quo. Banksy's art continues to challenge our views, perceptions, and beliefs and has managed to revolutionize the way that artists showcase their ideas.