Robert Banks (born 1974), better known as Banksy, is a well-known yet pseudo-anonymous English graffiti artist from Yate near Bristol. His artworks are often satirical pieces of art which encompass topics from politics, culture, and ethics. His street art, which combines graffiti with a distinctive stencilling technique, has appeared in London and in cities around the world. Banksy’s stencils feature striking and humorous images occasionally combined with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment or pro-freedom. Subjects include animals such as monkeys and rats, policemen, soldiers, children and the elderly. He also makes stickers (the Neighbourhood Watch subvert) and sculpture (the murdered phonebox), and was responsible for the cover art of Blur’s 2003 album Think Tank.
Rather than giving more background information on Banksy (which for example is available on Wikipedia), I think the best way to portray him is through a number of high profile stunts, which he claimed responsibility for, plus of course his art work. Another place to visit is certainly his website.
- At London Zoo, he climbed into the penguin enclosure and painted ‘We’re bored of fish’ in seven foot high letters.
- At Bristol Zoo, he left the message ‘I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring.’ in the elephant enclosure.
- In January 2001, he travelled to the areas controlled by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, and in sign of solidarity with their movement, painted murals with scenes depicting the struggle and also made stencils on the walls of San CristÃ³bal de las Casas.
- In March 2005, he placed subverted artworks in the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
- He put up a subverted painting in London’s Tate Britain gallery.
- In May 2005 Banksy’s version of a primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife whilst pushing a shopping trolley was found hanging in the British Museum, London. Upon discovery, the museum added it to their permanent collection. [Check out video below]
- Banksy has sprayed ‘This is not a photo opportunity’ on certain photograph spots.
- In August 2005, Banksy painted nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.
- In April 2006, Banksy created a sculpture based on a crumpled red phone box with a pickaxe in its side, apparently bleeding, and placed it in a street in Soho, London. It was later removed by Westminster Council. BT released a press release, which said: “This is a stunning visual comment on BT’s transformation from an old-fashioned telecommunications company into a modern communications services provider.”
- In June 2006, Banksy created an image of a naked man hanging out of a bedroom window on a wall in central Bristol. The image sparked some controversy, with the Bristol City Council leaving it up to the public to decide whether it should stay or go. After an internet discussion in which 97% (all but 6 people) supported the stencil, the city council decided it would be left on the building.
- In August/September 2006, Banksy replaced up to 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s debut CD, Paris, in 48 different UK record stores with his own cover art and remixes by Danger Mouse. Music tracks were given titles such as “Why am I Famous?”, “What Have I Done?” and “What Am I For?”. Several copies of the CD were purchased by the public before stores were able to remove them, some going on to be sold for as much as A$750 on online auction websites such as eBay. The cover art depicted Paris Hilton digitally altered to appear topless. Other pictures feature her with a dog’s head replacing her own, and one of her stepping out of a luxury car, edited to include a group of homeless people, which included the caption 90% of success is just showing up.
- In September 2006, Banksy dressed an inflatable doll in the manner of a Guantanamo Bay detainment camp prisoner (orange jumpsuit, black hood, and handcuffs) and then placed the figure within the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. [Check out video below].