Who is Banksy?

Banksy is the pseudonym of a “guerrilla” street artist known for his controversial, and often politically themed, stencilled pieces.

Banksy, a street artist whose identity remains unknown, is believed to have been born in Bristol, England, around 1974. He rose to prominence for his provocative stencilled pieces in the late 1990s. Banksy is the subject of a 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which examines the relationship between commercial and street art.

Banksy's Career

Banksy began his career as a graffiti artist in the early 1990s, in Bristol’s graffiti gang DryBreadZ Crew. Although his early work was largely freehand, Banksy used stencils on occasion. In the late ’90s, he began using stencils predominantly. His work became more widely recognized around Bristol and in London, as his signature style developed.

Banksy’s artwork is characterized by striking images, often combined with slogans. His work often engages political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children. In addition to his two-dimensional work, Banksy is known for his installation artwork. One of the most celebrated of these pieces, which featured a live elephant painted with a Victorian wallpaper pattern, sparked controversy among animal rights activists.

Other pieces have drawn attention for their edgy themes or the boldness of their execution. Banksy’s work on the West Bank barrier, between Israel and Palestine, received significant media attention in 2005. He is also known for his use of copyrighted material and subversion of classic images. An example of this is Banksy’s version of Monet’s famous series of water lilies paintings, adapted by Banksy to include drifting trash and debris.

Banksy’s worldwide fame has transformed his artwork from acts of vandalism to sought-after high art pieces. Journalist Max Foster has referred to the rising prices of graffiti as street art as “the Banksy effect.” Interest in Banksy escalated with the release of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award.

In October 2013, Banksy took to the streets of New York City. There he pledged to create a new piece of art for each day of his residency. As he explained to the Village Voice, “The plan is to live here, react to things, see the sights—and paint on them. Some of it will be pretty elaborate, and some will just be a scrawl on a toilet wall.” During that month, he also sold some of his works on the street for $60 a piece, well below the market value for his art.

About Banksy

Banksy’s identity remains unknown, despite intense speculation. The two names most often suggested are Robert Banks and Robin Gunningham. Pictures that surfaced of a man who was supposedly Banksy pointed toward Gunningham, an artist who was born in Bristol in 1973. Gunningham moved to London around 2000, a timeline that correlates with the progression of Banksy’s artwork.

Banksy's Notable Street Works

1997 – Lenin Punk – Weston Super Mare

2000 – The Mild Mild West – Bristol

2001 – Gorilla With Pink Mask – Bristol

2002 – Laugh Now – LA

2002 – I’m Out of Bed Rat – LA

2003 – Every Picture Tells A Lie – Berlin

2003 – Rage, Flower Thrower – Jerusalem

2003 – The Grim Reaper – Bristol

2003 – Bomb Hugger – London

2004 – Cut It Out – Palestine

2004 – Consumer Jesus

2004 – Ice Cream Bomb – Brighton

2004 – This Is Not Photo Opportunity – Somerset

2005 – Flying Balloon Girl – Israel

2005 – Nighthawks Forever – London

2005 – Snorting Cocaine – London

2005 – Because I’m Worthless – London

2005 – Dove With Peace – Bethlehem

2005 – Tourist Information – London

2005 – Hitchhiker Anywhere – London

2006 – Naked Man Hanging From Window – Bristol

2006 – Gangsta Rat – London

2006 – Sweep It Under The Carpet – London

2007 – Policeman Searching Girl – Glastonbury

2007 – Gun-toting Clown – Bristol

2007 – Cash Machine Girl – London

2007 – Angel In Bullet Proof Vest – London

2007 – Ariel Flower Girl – Los Angeles

2007 – ATM Girl – London

2007 – Yellow Lines Flower Painters – London

2007 –  Mona Lisa Rocket Launcher – London

2007 – Girl With Balloon – London

2008 – One Nation Under CCTV – London

2008 – Let Them Eat Crack – New York

2008 – Injured Buddha – London

2008 – Gorilla Artist – London

2008 – Girl and Mouse – New Orleans

2008 – Bubble Slide Girl – London

2008 – Cave Painting Removal – London

2008 – Abraham Lincoln – New Orleans

2008 – KKK – Alabama

2008 – No Loitering – New Orleans

2009 – Last Graffiti Before Motorway – London

2009 – Ghetto Boy – London

2009 – Steam Roller Traffic Warden – London

2009 – Don’t Forget Your Scarf – Bristol

2009 – I Don’t Believe In Global Warming – London

2009 – Regents Canal Mural – London

2010 – Peaceful Hearts Doctor – San Francisco

2010 – No Trespassing – San Francisco

2010 – Keith Haring Dog – London

2010 – Interest in People – Toronto

2010 – Forgive Our Trespassing – Salt Lake City

2010 – Camera Man and Flower – Utah

2010 – Follow Your Dreams – Boston

2010 – Baby Carriage

2010 – I Remember When This Was All Trees – Detriot

2010 – If At First You Don’t Succeed – San Francisco

2011 – Love Plane – London

2011 – Child Solider- LA

2012 – Slave Labour – London

2012 – Javelin Thrower – London

2013 – Fake Plate Quote – New York

2013 – Graffiti is a crime – New York

2013 – Hammer Boy – New York

2014 – Government Spies Telephone Box – Cheltenham

2014 – Piecered Ear Drum – Bristol

2015 – Steve Jobs – Calais

2016 – Young Girl From Les Miserables – London

Banksy's Awards
  • 2007 Arts Greatest Living Briton
  • 2014 Person of the year  –  Webby Awards
Films About Banksy
  • 2010 “Exit Through The Gift Shop” (Nominated for 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary)
  • 2011 “B-Movie”
  • 2015 “Make this the year you discover a new destination”
Banksy's Authorised Exhibition History
  • 2002 Los Angeles USA  “Existencilism” at 33 1/3   Gallery
  • 2003 London UK “Turf War”
  • 2003 Sydney Australia “Semi-Permanent”
  • 2005 London UK  “Crude Oils”
  • 2006 Los Angeles USA “Barely Legal”
  • 2006 London UK “Santa’s Ghetto”
  • 2007 Bethlehem  Israel
  • 2008 London UK “Cans Festival”
  • 2009 Bristol UK “Banksy V’s Bristol”
  • 2013 New York USA “Better Out Than In” (one month show on the streets)
  • 2015 Weston-Super-Mere “Dismaland”