The legendary street artist, Banksy, has been called "the world's most famous vandal" - with his graffiti artwork selling for up to $1.87 million at auction! Yet he has never revealed his true identity, despite being the biggest icon of the 21st century on the graffiti art scene.
His record-breaking artwork was described as a "vandalised" version of a painting by Damien Hirst, which Banksy called "Keep It Spotless". Banksy's 120-inch x 80-inch canvas was described as a "defaced" version of Hirst's painting of a Los Angeles hotel maid, Leanne. She was depicted pulling up Hirst's painting to sweep underneath it.
When Banksy's artwork was auctioned for charity at New York's Sotheby's in December 2008, it had an estimated price tag of $350,000, but the bidding went through the roof and it sold for a record high, fetching around five times its original estimate. Banksy had contributed the painting to the RED auction in support of AIDS charities.
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What we know about Banksy
The artist is well-known in terms of his artwork that always telling a story - mostly providing a political or social comment. He started out as a graffiti artist with the DryBreadZ Crew in Bristol in 1990, where there was a large underground scene.
Graffiti work is illegal, and he chose the pseudonym, Banksy, to remain anonymous. He was inspired by the famous French graffiti artist, Blek le Rat, who used a striking visual style with stencils to make political messages. At the time, most graffiti artists used a freehand style.
Banksy reportedly began using stencils because he felt he wasn't good with a spray can. His anti-establishment views attracted much media attention, as his paintings sprang up all over Bristol. He targeted political hypocrisy and social injustice, claiming his aim was to "crush the system".
After moving to London, recognition of his work increased, with his drawings of chimps and rats attracting the press. He took on a publicist, photographer Steve Lazarides. They liaised to publish a series of books and Banksy also invented what he called "Brandalism" - a combination of "brand" and "vandalism" - with its own slogans, copying advertising techniques. He drew graffiti relating to Brandalism in strategic locations, targeting top brands, including Tesco and Nike.
The continued media publicity turned him into a masked, anonymous, Robin Hood-type character, who was poking fun at the establishment.
Most famous artworks
Banksy became the biggest name on the graffiti art scene in the 21st century. Targeting the traditional art world, he shunned galleries and hosted street art exhibitions in abandoned tunnels.
His work began to sell for large amounts of money. Prior to his record-breaking $1.87 million sale in 2008, he had created some of his most famous artwork, taking his inspiration from the paintings of Andy Warhol. A joint exhibition, Warhol vs Banksy, celebrated both artists' work at The Hospital, in Covent Garden, London, in 2007.
One of Warhol's most famous paintings - his brightly-coloured depiction of Marilyn Monroe - was displayed next to Banksy's own version of the artwork. Banksy's bright, lurid image of a fashion model, with Monroe's bouffant hair on the face of supermodel Kate Moss, reflected how fame had changed since Warhol's 1960s painting.
Another famous Banksy painting was Mona Lisa Bazooka, which he painted between 2007 and 2008. Inspired by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Banksy's version, in Soho, had a modern twist, as the model wore a headset and carried a rocket launcher. Although his character had the same smile as da Vinci's original model, combined with a bazooka, she appeared menacing, rather than mysterious.
Shop Till You Drop
One of Banksy's most famous social comments was his artwork, Shop Till You Drop, painted in November 2011 on the side of an office building on Bruton Lane in London's West End. It is also known as the “Falling Shopper” and depicts a woman falling from the top of a building, clutching a shopping trolley containing a few items. His aim was to point out the perils of consumerism.
Using scaffolding and a tarpaulin to make sure he wasn't caught in the act; he painted the graffiti in daylight. It was painted more than two storeys up and the tarpaulin made it appear that renovation work was taking place on the office block.
Scaffolding was set up at some point on Saturday 19th November by two men who looked like construction workers. Once the scaffolding was erected, tarpaulins were draped over it. At around 3pm on Sunday 20th November, the workers went back and began taking the scaffolding down.
By 5pm that day, all of the scaffolding had been removed and passers-by realised Banksy had stopped by and created his latest graffiti, which was quickly dubbed, Shop Till You Drop.
Art critics believe the woman is depicted as contributing to the big corporations, but the shopping cart is pulling her down, making it a controlling authority. Shop Till You Drop is still visible today, although it has become quite damaged over the years.
People are fascinated by Banksy to this day because his identity has never been definitively revealed. There have been plenty of suggestions about who might be behind the graffiti, but he has never publicly revealed his identity.
People continue to pay a lot of money for his artwork. He has shown he has a sense of humour by pulling off one of the most elaborate pranks in the history of the art world in October 2018.
Banksy's £1.04 million work of art, Girl with a Balloon, was auctioned at Sotheby's in London. However, just after it was sold, the spray-painted canvas suddenly went through a shredder, which had been hidden in its frame. An alarm sounded as the painting self-destructed!
Not even the staff of Sotheby's had been in on the prank and they were genuinely shocked, thinking something had gone wrong! Afterwards, Sotheby's senior director, Alex Branczik, quipped, "We just got Banksy-ed."
Banksy's latest graffiti was painted on the wall of a householder's private garage in Taibach, Port Talbot, in December 2018. Thousands of fans have been flocking to the site to see his drawing - called Season's Greetings - which depicts a young boy playing in the snow in front of an outdoor fire. It has been sold to Essex gallery owner John Brandler, reportedly for around £100,000.
Around 20,000 visitors have been to see the drawing on householder Ian Lewis's garage wall. The steelworker admitted it had been stressful having people turning up at his home continually and said it was a "weight off his shoulders" that it had been sold.
Mr Brandler has pledged to keep the artwork in Port Talbot for two to three years. He believes it could be a great visitor attraction for the town. Banksy had confirmed the artwork was his after painting it just before Christmas 2018. Mr Brandler said he was happy that Mr Lewis had accepted an offer lower than the market price to keep the artwork in Port Talbot.
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