Banksy is one of the most mysterious and provocative street artists. Allegedly, Banksy started making graffiti as a teenager near Bristol, UK, in the ’90s. Since then, Banksy’s works have appeared worldwide and sold for millions at several auctions. Banksy’s style is known worldwide, as are his outbreaks on the institution and what he thinks as human rights abuses.
Banksy often makes strong political statements on social issues, which makes him a devoted cult, and the leader of an international street art movement. Over the years, Banksy became a counterculture idol, and his graffiti has captured public attention. Banksy exhibits his art in public places such as the West Bank and Gaza Stripp.
Banksy does not sell his works. Only some art auctioneers attempt to sell Banksy’s street art on location. All these beg the question of who exactly Banksy is. Banksy only claims his artwork on his official Instagram page.
Many people try to unmask and theorize about Banksy’s identity. In January 2015, a British teenager claimed a man introduced himself as a bank robber and gave him a print signed by Banksy after he helped the artist pick up paint that fell out, reportedly worth 24,000 dollars.
The information that emerged as a result of the efforts to find this mysterious street artist is as follows:
- Banksy is from Bristol, UK
- He started making grafitti in 90’s
- He was expelled from school and started painting on the streets
- His earliest mural depicting a teddy bear throwing a molotov cocktail onto riot police called The Mild Mild West
- In an anonymous interview published in Swindle Magazine (2006), Banksy said he came from a small city in Southern England and met with street art in his childhood.
- When he was about ten, he met a kid named 3D who painted graffiti on the streets, greatly influencing his art view.
Why Banksy’s identity is a Mystery?
Art lovers worldwide wonder who Banksy is and why he keeps his identity a secret. People pay thousands of dollars to touch on his illegal work. Many believe that Banksy touches on social issues and strikes a rebellious attitude to protect himself from receiving bad reactions and being in the public eye, which can restrict his art.
For these reasons, he works secretly, making his work even more attention-grabbing and even an enigma.
How Banksy Earns a Living?
In 2014, Banksy’s famous work “Kissing Coopers,” depicting two policemen kissing, was ripped off the wall and sold for 575.000 dollars to an anonymous buyer in the US. Another mural called “Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)”depicts a poor kid sewing sold for 500.000 or 700.00 dollars.
Residents objected to this, and the mural was returned to London and sold for 1.1 million dollars in the auction. The most incredible and inspiring event about Banksy is undoubtedly his shredded canvas “Girl with Baloon” after selling it for 1 million dollars.
The day following this event, Banksy posted a video on his Instagram page revealing that he placed a shredder into the frame in case someone tried to sell it in an auction. This event shocked the world and was the subject of many news and Youtube videos.
Some even said that Banksy was in the auction room at the time of the incident and watched it. The questions to ask here are how someone sells and buys a mural painting, who is the owner of this work, and who takes the money, the owner of the building or the artist?
Banksy criticizes greed as he sees it as the worst way of Capitalism. That is why he doesn’t receive money from his sold works and gets offended by this. But Banksy should earn money to live. So how does Banksy make money since he doesn’t get any money from his work?
Many think that Banksy makes money in many ways. Banksy’s works were sold at a street stall in New York in 2013. And as no one believed these were original pieces, they were sold for 60 dollars. Then Banksy posted a message stating that all those works were authentic.
There are many replicas of Banksy’s work worldwide, and no one can tell the difference. So, Banksy doesn’t compensate for the murals but for prints. Many say Banksy makes 20 million dollars a year. Banksy’s “Wall and Piece” book sold well in 2005, and his movie “Exit Through the Gift Shop” grossed 5 million dollars.
Banksy also sells pieces through the Pest Control agency. Banksy sells his works below market price. He donates the income from his works, from which he earns a large amount of money, to charities. That’s why many people describe Banksy as Robin Hood.
The theories of Banksy’s identity
Banksy’s true identity is a subject that many people worldwide wonder about. So, who can be this mysterious philanthropist and marginal artist? Many different theories have been put forward on this subject; even there are channels on Youtube that only post videos that try to reveal Banksy’s identity. Here are the allegations about Banksy’s identity:
London Queen Mary University Criminologists used geographic profiling technique to identify Banksy. Criminologists examined 140 artworks attributed to Banksy to reveal the true identity of this mysterious street artist. But this research was canceled as Banksy’s lawyers reached out to the university.
But, the most outstanding theory about Banksy’s identity is a man called Robin Gunningham. Gunningham was born outside Bristol and is a gifted illustrator drawing cartoons in school. For that matter, Gunningham’s schoolmates suggest that he is Banksy.
Another event supporting this idea is that in 2018, Robin Gunningham’s original work sold in an auction verge upon Banksy’s graffiti style.
A news website claimed that Paul Horner from Liverpool was identified as Banksy after being arrested for vandalism by an Anti-Graffiti Task Force. But this turned out to be wrong after Banksy’s publicist Jo Brooks denied it.
In 2015, an artist named Richard Pfeiffer was arrested for allegedly painting graffiti of Banksy and was naturally accused of being Banksy. But Pfeiffer proved that his tool didn’t match the painting cops claim he drew. In other words, he proved that he is not Banksy.
In an HBO documentary called Banksy Does New York, Chris Healey, a Canadian media artist, suggested that Banksy is a group of seven women artists. This theory is still undissolved.
In 2015, a British teenager helped a young man pick up a painting that had fallen off. After that, the young man introduced himself as Robin Banks and gave the teenager a print signed by Banksy worth 24.000 dollars. That teenager claimed that the man he saw on the trains was Banksy himself.
Take Home Message
The Banksy incident has shown us that art is made for art rather than material concerns, and it is not easy to value work. Of course, this is not the case for artists who make a living from works of art, but as Artchi, we keep our products affordable so that art is accessible to everyone and unknown artists can spread their thoughts to a broader audience.