WHO IS BANKSY?
Banksy was born in Bristol in 1974, he could embody in many respects the Robin Hood of Street Art and, in general, of contemporary art . In fact, a bit like the champion of Sherwood Forest, Banksy is an artist-hero who avenges the injustices of the world through his art, mocking, overturning and mocking them.
To bring Banksy closer to the English bandit is also the difficulty in understanding his identity. In fact, many investigations have been carried out in this regard: there are those who assume it is a collective and those of individuals. The most recurring names about his identity are those of Robert Del Naja , also known as 3D , frontman of Massive Attack, or that of Robin Gunningham , a name that emerged in a 2008 investigation of the "Mail on Sunday", confirmed by some scholars of Queen Mary University. In any case, anonymity has always been preserved with the strictest secrecy, and in a certain sense it also represents an added value to the artist's myth, so much so that this aura of mystery represents one of the many ways in which the artist uses marketing strategies wisely.
One aspect of Banksy's art that immediately emerges is the need for creative reappropriation of public spaces: his works irreverently target the communication mechanisms of advertising, underlining how easy it is to overturn and distort the original message.
THE ORIGINS: FROM GRAFFITI WRITING TO STREET ART
In the early nineties he approaches Graffiti Writing , where the local scene was already particularly lively thanks to Writers such as John Nation, 3D and Nick Walker. With lettering, Banksy immediately combined considerable figurative skills.
In 1999 he created his first major work which marks the transition from Graffiti Writing to Street Art: Mild Mild West , which depicts a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at a group of riot police.
BANKSY AND THE RATS
In 2000 he moved to London and began to use stencils intensively . The inspiration for the use of this instrument takes it from Blek le Rat and, from the same, it is also inspired by one of the most recurring subjects in his works: rats. It is interesting to know that the choice of the animal is not accidental: on the one hand it is an animal that operates outside the rules and in an insidious way, on the other "rat" is also the anagram of the term "art " .
FROM “GIRL WITH BALLOON” TO “LOVE IS IN THE BIN”.
Two years later he painted one of his best-known works: There Is Always Hope (also called Girl with Balloon ), the same one that on October 5, 2018, done on canvas with spray and acrylic, was sold by the Sotheby's auction house for 1 .4 million dollars . From the estimated 200,000 pounds, after a succession of back and forth offers, the auctioneer sold the work for over a million pounds. Just at that moment, a mechanism installed inside the frame began to shred the work itself, almost halfway through it. Following the event that shook the art world, the work was renamed Love is in the Bin and revalued by Sotheby's between 4 and 6 million pounds.
The case had unprecedented media resonance and the audacity of the gesture (it is assumed that the artist was present in the room and had decided when to activate the self-destruction process) combined with the artist's own criticism of the system represented a unique moment not only for the artist but for the entire history of art.
THE INTERVENTIONS IN LONDON
In 2003 Banksy created various works against the atrocities of war, a theme very dear to the artist, while in July he thought of organizing the Turf War exhibition in a London warehouse, in which he exhibited works with various techniques and styles, among these iconoclastic reinterpretations of Queen Elizabeth but also spray interventions on living animals.
At the Tate Modern in London he decided to affix his work in style with those in the room with double-sided tape: he hung an idyllic pastoral landscape enclosed by police tape, as if it represented a crime scene.
In 2005 he created the first murals in Palestine and in London he organized the spectacular Crude Oils exhibition event , in which he wanted to place some oil paintings altered by alienating and denaturing interventions. In addition to the interventions on canvas, a skeleton with a guardian's uniform and two hundred live mice were inserted into the exhibition hall, which distracted visitors from contemplating the works.
BARELY LEGAL IN LOS ANGELES
In 2006 he reproduced a fake version of Paris Hilton's CD: making fun of the inconsistency of the character, an heiress who just released her first and only album in 2006, Banksy produced 500 "fake" copies of the CD, putting them on the market and, as a result, in 42 specialist music shops in the UK. Also in 2006, in Los Angeles he organized one of his most provocative exhibitions, called Barely Legal : for 3 days he held a 38-year-old Indian elephant in a hall, adorned with a damask texture that also extended onto the walls. The situation takes up the typical English expression "The elephant is in the room" (literally "the elephant is in the room"): a phrase that is used to indicate the existence of a big problem that everyone tries to gloss over due to embarrassment. In this case the rather serious "problem" is the lack of drinking water for those who live below the poverty line.
THE ARTIST IN NEW YORK: VILLAGE PET STORE & CHARCOAL GRILL
In 2008 he decided to organize the Cans Festival in London, from 3 to 5 May, in which about forty international stencil artists took part and, in New York, the Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill : the first decidedly extravagant New York exhibition, in which the characteristics of a pet store and a fast food restaurant have been mixed. On the one hand, the exhibition aimed to condemn the consumerism of our society in a provocative way, and on the other to denigrate the ambiguous relationship between man and animals, seen both as adorable life companions and as food. The exhibited works were animatronics , mechanical puppets animated in a realistic way with technologies used in the film industry, such as McDonald's chicken nuggets that pecked a sauce from a tray or a partially sliced salami that moved as if it were a snail.
BANKSY RETURNS TO HIS HOMETOWN
In 2009 he organized his largest personal exhibition in Bristol, the Banksy vs Bristol Museum: an exhibition hosted in his hometown which in two and a half months hosted around 300,000 people. The artist asked the museum managers for maximum secrecy about the operation, maximum freedom of action and assumed all the costs of the exhibition: the result was about a hundred absolutely extravagant and subversive works, such as the ice cream vandalized and used as a “reception,” classic statues wearing loincloths or holding a can of pink paint on their heads.
THE RECENT WORKS
In 2011 Banksy painted the work Shop Till You Drop on a factory wall in Detroit , a work that intended to strongly criticize the sick mechanics of consumerism.
In 2015 he designed and built the Dismaland amusement park in the seaside resort of Weston-Super-Mare, in a disused seaside resort: just at the entrance, the visitor could ride a motor boat loaded with migrants or buy their children the balloon with the words “I'm an imbecile”. In addition to Banksy, 58 artists also participated in this project, including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer , becoming a real collective exhibition. The work-symbol of the exhibition was Cinderella's carriage overturned following a road accident, complete with the princess's "corpse" filmed by the paparazzi. The installation has been particularly criticized, as it explicitly alludes to the death of Lady Diana.
In 2017 he inaugurated the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem , the hotel that guarantees the ugliest view in the world: the one on the Israeli separation wall. In 2019 in Venice, in Piazza San Marco Banksy proposes Venice in Oil , a stall where he exhibits a polyptych dedicated to cruise ships in the lagoon. In February 2020, during Valentine's night, he painted a child who, with a slingshot in his hand, hits a heart that explodes in a cascade of red petals, a work unfortunately vandalized two days after its creation.
BANKSY VS PANDEMIC
Banksy has also created several works dedicated to the pandemic, both at his home and in the London underground: the first was published on Instagram, where it was possible to see his bathroom painted with various rats that turn the space upside down. The post was ironically accompanied by the caption "My wife hates it when I work from home" . Subsequently, on the London Underground he painted a series of rats playing with masks announcing the return of the artist "I get lockdown, but I get up again!"