Probably the world’s most sought-after and talked about street artist, Banksy is a controversial figure who is known for attacking and satirising the establishment and highlighting greed and inequality in today’s society, while at the same time promoting a message of love, care and community. His distinctive stencil style can be seen all over the world, from London and New York to Venice and the Gaza Strip.

Beginnings

Originally from Bristol in the southwest of the UK, Banksy began his career as a freehand graffiti artist in the 90s as part of the city’s DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ). He moved to working with stencils after realising that it would be a quicker way to create his images, ensuring he wouldn’t get caught by the police. He was originally inspired by the Bristol street art scene, which featured artists such as Nick Walker, Inkie and 3D as well as French artist Blek Le Rat whose style he borrowed from and developed into his own distinct iconography of subversion and satire. Around this time he met Steve Lazarides who would later become his agent, photographer and collaborator. His first large wall stencil is thought to be The Mild Mild West from 1997 which shows a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.

Anonymity

The question on everyone’s lips since Banksy first appeared on the street art scene over 20 years ago has always been – who is Banksy? The answer is – we still don’t know. Speculation is rife as to the identity of the most elusive urban artist in town but recently he was ‘outed’ as Robin Gunningham by scientists claiming to use ‘geographic profiling’ to match Gunningham’s movements with the locations of Banksy’s murals. He has also been named as Robert 3D Del Naja (the frontman of the Bristol band, Massive Attack) by journalist Craig Williams, but upon further comparison this seems unlikely.

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