Whether you love, hate, or admire him, there is no denying that the anonymous street artist known as Banksy is one of the most influential artists in the world today. However, his success is as much due to his art as it is to the clever way in which he has manipulated the media over the past 15 years or so.
Nonetheless, Banksy has made an indelible mark on the world, and regardless of his artistic talent (or the lack thereof), there is almost nothing known about the artist(s) known as Banksy. In this list, we present you with some more things about Banksy that you may, or may not have known about Banksy, street artist extraordinaire.
Is Banksy Robert Gunningham?
It seems highly improbable that a single person could have hidden his identity from the world for so long as Banksy has done, so whoever he/she, or they are, the British newspaper the Daily Mail, was determined to settle the matter, once and for all.
To this end, the publication launched a full scale investigation into the Banksy affair, and the upshot was- nothing. All that emerged from the investigation was a picture of a man in Jamaica working with paint stencils, who the newspaper identified as Robert Gunningham, a Bristol-born man who is said to have attended the Bristol Cathedral Choir School as a boy.
Banksy’s work comes with houses attached
Many of Banksy’s works have been stolen or vandalised, but some have persisted long enough to add real value to the properties they adorn. One case involved a mobile home in Norfolk, which a coupe had bought for about £1000, and which Banksy covered over with murals.
According to reports, Banksy obtained permission to paint the mobile home by presenting the couple with a pair of tickets to a music concert. A decade later, after Banksy had become famous, the couple cashed in to the tune of £500 000 when they sold their mobile home as a Banksy original.
Another case involved a home in Norfolk on which Banksy had painted a large mural. The owners tried to sell the house with the mural, and although several offers come to nothing for reasons that are still somewhat unclear, the house was subsequently advertised as “A Banksy mural, with house attached.”
Banksy makes movies, and writes books too
In addition to his reputation as the “Scarlet Pimpernel of Street Art”, Banksy has also become known as a film maker, and a film maker of note to boot. His movie, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, was even nominated for an Oscar and although it did not win the award, the film was well received by critics.
Banksy also has enough free time to write and publish books, and to date, he has produced six books in which he expresses his opinions on life, politics, and the frailty of the human condition. “Wall and Piece” was released by Random House in 2005, and perhaps his most revealing work, Banksy: “You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat” appeared in 2012, courtesy of Pro-Actif Communications.
Banksy’s work, Space Girl & Bird fetched 20 times more than expected
A new record-selling price of £288,000 (US$576,000) for an original Banksy was recently realized at an auction run by Bonhams of London, when his work, Space Girl & Bird, was sold for more than 20 times the expected price to an anonymous buyer who bid from the US via phone.
The previous record for a Banksy was a mere £102 000, which amount was paid for a picture of senior citizens playing bowls with bombs.
Banksy is not universally admired
Despite the media hype, and an almost universal heroworship of the elusive Banksy, serious art critics have yet to be persuaded that Banksy is a legitimate artist. In the words of Peter Gibson, a spokesman for the organisation Keep Britain Tidy, Banksy’s work is “simple vandalism”, but satirist Charlie Brooker put it more succinctly when he stated in his column in The Guardian newspaper that “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots.”
These may be subjective opinions, but when the criticism comes from somebody like Blek le Rat, a street artist who was active in Paris 20 years before Banksy, the matter takes on a different hue. Blek le Rat is widely considered to be originator of the style that has made Banksy famous, and although he has thanked Banksy for his contribution to street art, he also had the following to say- “It’s difficult to find a technique and style in art so when you have a style and you see someone else is taking it and reproducing it, you don’t like that.”
Le Rat stops short of accusing Banksy of outright plagiarism, but the striking similarities between the works of the master and that of Banksy leave a lot of questions unanswered- questions that are perhaps best left unanswered.