Written by Renae Failla

Who is the real Banksy? Or who do we think he can be?

 

In 2010, Banksy was considered one of Time Magazine’s most influential people alongside the likes of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga. There are many theories and speculations of who the real ‘Banksy’ could be. In fact, you will find Google and YouTube littered with their takes on who he could possibly be based on attempted unmaskings and geographical profiling, a technique which has been used by investigators to work out offenders probable origins. 

Banksy has literally left his mark on cities throughout the world anonymously. Some popular opinions claim that he could be Robin Banx, this was the name he used during his teenage days around Bristol, England. This theory also correlates to a story where a young boy named Azarya was gifted a $30,000 painting signed by the artist after helping him pick up his fallen paintbrushes on a New York train – he provided the name, Robin Banks. 

The boy had described Banksy to be a white man in his late 40s and this might actually be the only legitimate information on the artist if this was indeed him. 

Other accounts claim he could be a team of 7 people or Robin Gunningham, a consequence of geographical profiling which discovered a graffiti artist by the name in Bristol.

Image credit/ Canon Snapper – Artwork: Banksy

What does he stand for and what drives his passion?

We may never know who the ‘real’ Banksy is – and many of his biggest fans prefer not to know. Instead, they hold a strong passion for what he stands for. Banksy derives his notoriety through his satirical and subversive politically inclined art. 

He achieves this by utilising a stencilling graffiti technique which enables him to garner a political edge to his art. Additionally, the graffiti technique helps to add a layer of history- “they have been used to start revolutions and stop wars,” he says. 

In interviews, Banksy has shared that from a young age, he always had issues with police and authority figures, this alone could be the underlying reasons why his work often depicts political figures in satirical ways. 

Banksy is never one to follow the status quo, often doing the very opposite making a fool of the world of art which gives him his anonymous notoriety and source of income.

Image credit: Warchild Artwork: Banksy

Banksy is very aware of his audience and the platform he has been given with the shift of the 20th century, telling a friend in an interview:

“There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell [one’s art],” he continues, “You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection.This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count,” this is the attitude that has turned him into a household name and obtaining that name goes against what he stands for.

What has he done?

The mediums, locations and continually new pieces to his collection make it difficult to keep track of all of his artworks. Some of his well-known artworks include the Banksy Monkey Parliament, displayed at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, One Nation Under CCTV in London, Sweep it Under the Carpet in London and Kissing Coppers in Brighton.

In addition to his graffiti artworks and what seems to spark the interest of many are his documentary, his pop up exhibition Dismaland and his self-destructive auctioned artwork.

In 2010, Banksy worked on a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Calling it ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ the film tells the real story of how a strange French shopkeeper became a documentary maker attempting to discover and befriend Banksy. 

Banksy reverses the camera back onto the owner, once again protecting his anonymity. Banksy maintains that he is ‘unfilmable’. Many speculated that Banksy would show in disguise when the film was nominated for an Academy Award, but once again were left disappointed.

 

(Image credit: Banksy)

Dismaland, the Bemusement Park was a temporary art project that took place in an abandoned resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK.

In 2015, Banksy worked with other well-known artists to create the exhibition that took a mischievous twist on Disneyland. The tagline to the exhibition was ‘The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction!’.

Banksy funded the exhibition himself asserting that it was a Family Amusement park that was unsuitable for children. There were 4000 tickets available each day for the duration of 5 weeks which unsurprisingly all sold out.

 

More recently, Banksy’s painting of ‘Girl With Balloon’ had just sold for $1.4m in 2018 and to the shock of many onlookers, an alarm went off once it sold and the painting shredded right in front of their eyes. Banksy claims that it turned the exhibition itself into a work of art as it makes a mockery of auctions and the art industry altogether. 

Many considered it a PR stunt which inevitably raised the prices of his pieces.

Why are people so fascinated by him?

It can be said that people are so fascinated by Banksy due to his elusiveness and the unknown factor where they are constantly left wondering who could be responsible for the artwork. It seems the fascination is not even so much by his skill but more so the fact that he has managed to remain a mystery all around the world for so many years. 

For Banksy, anonymity has created a buzz and fame that he would never tap into from being associated with an image.

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