2C: Banksy (Artist Feature)

Who is Banksy? No one knows.

What does he do? Everyone SHOULD know.

Banksy is quite possibly the most successful and widely recognized street artist of this generation (sorry Shepard Fairey). Born in England in the early 1970s to a middle class working family, Banksy has gained international recognition for his skills behind the pen (or should we say behind spray paint cans). Banksy happens to be a pseudonym for his real identity and not his real name. To this day no one knows exactly who the man behind these amazing works is, and according to Banksy “no one ever will”. Imagine; the greatest street artist of this era and no one still has quite figured out his true identity – simply unimaginable!

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  • What Does Banksy Do?

Shrouded in a veil of secrecy similar to most street artists, Banksy deploys his art on building walls, sidewalks, and billboards around the world with political satire and tongue-in-cheek social/political messages; catching the attention of a worldwide audience with the help of the Internet.

Banksy’s sole intent is for his works to be notoriously controversial. He wants his works to affect people emotionally, and force them to challenge social norms. In a world where everyone prefers to keep to themselves and are afraid to speak out against authority, Banksy doesn’t. He uses street art as a medium to channel his thoughts and opinions on heavier social and political subjects, and completes them in heavy populated areas where they can be seen by thousands of people. Some might say Banksy is an outlaw for the people, a sort of 21st century Robin Hood in a way and they wouldn’t be far off. To sum up, Banksy is similar to a political activist, but he uses his subversive art to protest society, rally people, and get them to question the world around them.

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  • Controversy Behind Banksy

Some of the controversies behind Banksy lie in the subject matter of his works.

I’ll let the works speak for themselves.

Queen Victoria in a provocative position

A Vietnam girl being burnt by radioactive burns being accompanied by Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald

Kissing Cops

A dog relieving itself

Quite controversial wouldn’t you agree? Banksy strategically places these works in places that garner the most traffic, and in turn thousands of people are able to see his pieces – children included. Banksy’s works have undergone the fire of censorship from concerned parents and government who don’t want their cities promoting these skewed messages to its citizens.

Banksy has also been attacked for profiting from street art and how he’s motivated by fame and riches. Others claim Banksy sold out and threw the movement ‘under the bus’ in exchange for millions of profit. People argue that Banksy has made street art commercial due to his successes, and therefore it has significantly lessened its effect as a medium.

“Some people don’t like Banksy because he does street art, as opposed to graffiti, and he does it for a living. Some people have an issue with people earning money with graffiti.” -Roubieu (Tagger)

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  • How He Changed The Game

Before Banksy, graffiti and (in a broader scope) street art had a negative perception behind the movement. However due to the popularity of Banksy’s works, his art became widely accepted by the general public making graffiti not so taboo. His works were no longer referred to as vandalism because they contained smart social and political messages. With this acceptance, Banksy opened up the floodgates to thousands of other street artists who were looking to express themselves.Street art, which used to be illegal was now widely accepted as commercial art. The art world embraced street art by putting it into galleries and exhibitions (see image above), even selling them at auctions for ridiculous prices. In fact, Banksy’s works are very popular with Hollywood celebrities like Brangelina and Christina Aguilera.

Banksy completely changed everyone’s perceptions on street art. He turned the art world upside down. The prospect of graffiti as an art form generating millions in profit was relatively unheard of, but because of the popularity of Banksy’s works he was able to achieve just that. He proved to the rest of the world that street art should be taken seriously, and gave the movement instant validation.

“Thanks to him (Banksy), a lot of people became aware of graffiti as an art as opposed to just vandalism. And he opened this tunnel.” – Roubieu (Tagger)

Banksy is the voice of the people. He is an individual that isn’t afraid to let his opinion be heard. He broadcasts political and social messages and attacks the higher powers that be. You may hate his art, or you may hate his harsh approach, but you can’t hate the fact that Banksy is still one of the people out there striving for their voice to be heard in a society where many lifeless cultural drones and dupes coexist.

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  • Recommendations

To learn more about Banksy, I highly recommend his book “Wall and Piece” and his Oscar nominated film “Exit Through The Gift Shop”. The film receives my highest recommendation as it’s the sole reason that got me hooked on the street art phenomenon.

If you’ve seen the film, or finished watching it (buy/rent/Netflix!), leave a comment down below; I’d love to have a discussion with you!

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