Acclaimed British graffiti artist Banksy is the world’s most sought-after and talked about street artists. Combining dark humour with the distinctive stencilling technique he reportedly appropriated from the serial number stencilled on the garbage truck he hid under to avoid being arrested for vandalism; Banksy’s artistic works of political and social commentary have appeared on city walls throughout the world – from London to New York, Jamaica to the Gaza Strip.
Banksy is not just known for his high profile murals though, he has been releasing prints for the last 17 or so years at least. Prints are typically released in various formats, including; signed, unsigned and artist proofs. However, as is the way with the elusive street artist, only a very select number of people know exactly what he creates and how many he releases. Some releases, for example, are only made available to VIPs, those collectors and friends of Banksy who are part of the much-coveted inner-circle. However, it is true to say, that his limited edition silkscreen prints grow in popularity with each passing year.
A question on everyone’s lips is who is Banksy? In fact, this has been asked since Banksy first started to appear on the street art scene over twenty years ago. The answer is, we don’t know. Speculation is rife as to the identity, and thus the real name, of this most elusive urban artist.
He has been ‘outed’ as Robin Gunningham by scientists using ‘geographic profiling’. He has also been named as Robert 3D Del Naja (the frontman of the Bristol band Massive Attack) by journalist Craig Williams and more recently by Goldie, a British DJ and artist who was part of the graffiti scene with Del Naja in the late 1980s. There is even speculation that Damien Hirst is Banksy and Banksy is Damien Hirst…i.e. they are one in the same. To this date, however, no Banksy identity claim has ever been definitively proven.
Here's what we do know; an anonymous British graffiti artist/street artist known for provocative street art stencils that are politically and satirically mind, we suspect strongly that Banksy is a man, not a woman or a collective (though there are theories!), but we do not know that for sure.
We also know, for example, that he is from Bristol, in the South West of the United Kingdom, and that he was likely born between 1970 and 1974. He started out by admiring Blek Le Rat and similar artists of the time, and in the early 1990s, he was part of a graffiti crew (DryBreadz crew) in his home-town of Bristol.
By the age of 18, he had begun to develop what would become his trademark stencil technique and in the very early 2000s, he moved from Bristol to London, where he began to gain much more notoriety and a reputation for his bold, challenging and humorous murals. Everything else is speculation, Banksy refuses to be interviewed and even concealed his identity from his family.
The reasons why Banksy chooses to remain anonymous are, on the one hand, self-explanatory, street art is illegal. In order to keep creating pieces and popping up on walls around the world, Banksy needs to stay out of sight of the law and in these days of social media, getting caught and ‘unmasked’ is a very real possibility. A unmasking might not only be detrimental to his brand but also his freedom. Interestingly a MyArtBroker survey of 2017 found that only 8% of people consider street art ‘vandalism’, but unfortunately that statistic won’t help if he is ever caught in the act.
There's no denying also, the intrigue and mystique around "Banksy" makes for great PR and interest in new murals and print releases.
When it comes to print releases, one of the most famous Banksy artworks has to be Girl With Balloon, which was recently voted the United Kingdom’s most favourite piece of art. The original work which appeared in London in 2002, depicts a young girl losing a heart-shaped balloon to a gust of wind, alongside, a quotation which reads, “There is always hope.”
However, the 'most famous Banksy' question is a hotly debated one. Opinions differ wildly between collectors, fans, experts and the lay-person, some cite Keep it Spotless - because not only is it very well know but it is also is most expensive Banksy piece to date. It was auctioned on 14 February 2008 at Sotheby’s in New York. The artwork which was originally a Damien Hirst was "defaced" by Banksy, and was expected 'only' to reach $350,000. It actually sold for $1,700,000! It shows a stencilled hotel chambermaid, named Leanne, on top of an iconic Spot piece by Hirst, she is pulling up Hirst’s original piece to sweep something underneath it.
There's no denying that the price of Banksy prints continues to grow, sometimes astronomically particularly on the secondary market.
It is estimated there have been around 70 Banksy print releases over the past 17 years or so, which amounts to some 30,000 prints by the British street artist in homes, private collections, in galleries or museums around the world.
Of those 30,000 around one third are signed Banksy prints, these are much more sought after than the unsigned versions which tend to make up most of the secondary market.
If you want to buy a Banksy, right now, whether signed or unsigned you will likely have to make a foray into the secondary market because new print releases to the public are few and far between. Buying on the secondary market basically, means buying from someone (an individual or gallery) that has a piece to sell.
At MyArtBroker we operate only in the secondary market, connecting Banksy buyers and sellers by tapping into a network of over 10,000 art collectors worldwide.