“I use whatever it takes. Sometimes that just means drawing a moustache on a girl’s face on some billboard, sometimes that means sweating for days over an intricate drawing. Efficiency is the key.” – Banksy
In the wake of the information released by a ‘geoprofiling’ study due to be published in the Journal of Spatial Science, claiming to have discovered Banksy’s true identity (you can read about that here) we’ve surmised five things you should know about the international man of mystery.
Up until the recent revelation of his apparent identity, Banksy has been one of the most famous, if not the most famous anonymous artist on the planet – and now graffiti’s over most of it, everywhere from the Gaza Strip to New Orleans (usually somewhere experiencing social/political strife). Starting out creating works on public buildings in his hometown of Bristol, Banksy has gone on to become one of the most prominent political, environmental and anti-capitalist artists in the public eye; making films, writing books, and creating his own ‘bemusement park’, Dismaland. The alternative theme park, which subverted Disneyland and all it’s ideals, was such a success it was a sell out for its run between August and September last year; much of the disused construction was used to create play areas and communal areas for the refugees in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais.
Banksy can now, typically, be recognized by his stenciled graffiti works on public buildings, through which he frequently references classical artists and channels his beliefs (and his dark sense of humour); however when he first started creating street art, between 1990-94, his work was mostly freehand. Apparently he began switching to predominantly stencils after he observed the stenciled serial number of the rubbish lorry he was hiding from police under. Realising this new technique took far less time than freehand, and so allowed him to become both more prolific and more recognizable in his work he adopted it and developed it into what we see today.
Many say his work is reminiscent of that of another famous street artist Blek le Rat – who began his career in Paris in 1981; however Banksy sites his defining influence to be that of 3D, who became the founding member of Massive Attack, and started out as a street artist in Banksy’s home town of Bristol.
He created his own currency
In 2004, Banksy printed a run of spoof £10 bank notes. These notes had, instead of the Queen’s head, an image of Diana, Princess of Wales; and instead of “Bank of England” the text read “Banksy of England”. A huge wad of these notes were thrown in to the crowd at Notting Hill Carnival that year, and then in the crowd at the NME tent at Reading Festival – who says having a good time doesn’t pay? The notes are known as Di Faced Tenners and uncut sheets of these notes have now fetched as much as £16,000 and £24,000 at auction.
He’s been nominated for an Oscar
Banksy’s come a long way from having to tell his mum his clothes were covered in paint from decorating houses; in 2010 Banksy was nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop which featured Mr Brainwash filming various “underground art escapades”. The film, which was billed as ”the world’s first street art disaster movie” had it’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to gross $5,308,618 at the box office.
The premier of Exit Through the Gift Shop was in a pop-up cinema in the tunnel where Banksy’s ‘Cans Festival’ had taken place in 2008, where Banksy invited 39 artists from around the world to paint a road tunnel in London over a weekend in May. Since that weekend the tunnel has been deemed legal for anyone to paint so long as they do so with respect.
* The documentary was not his only forays on the big screen – he also created the storyboards for a Simpsons intro in 2010, and idents for Nickelodeon in 2005.
One of his works was sold with a house attached
In 2007 a couple in Bristol wanted to sell their house; their house, had one of Banksy’s early free hand murals on it, featuring old age pensioners bowling with bombs. During proceedings the couple found out that their prospective buyers wanted to paint over the mural, removing the piece. The couple however, felt Banksy’s work deserved a little more respect; and in order to protect the piece went on to sell the it at Sotheby’s for £102,000. It was sold as “a mural with a house attached.”
His most expensive works
Banksy’s work has become increasingly popular over the years, just when you think the prices for his art have reached there zenith, they exceed all expectations again. Banksy’s work Space Girl & Bird exceed its estimate by around 20 times at the auction at Bonham’s in 2007, selling for £288,000 and from there, in 2008 his prices reached £636,500 with Simple Intelligence Testing. His celebrity fans range from Christina Aguilera – who owns three works including Queen Victoria As a Lesbian (which she bought for $38,000) to Jude Law, Chris Martin and Angelina Jolie, who has spent a total of around $307,000 for his work.
In 2008 a collaboration between Damien Hirst and Banksy, featuring Hirst’s famous spot paintings being lifted by one of Bansky’s French maid’s (who was initially commissioned by guest editor of The Independent, Bono) sold for $1,870,000 through Sotheby’s in New York.