(b. 1974)

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(1974?– )

British artist and film-maker, well known for spray-painted stencils applied clandestinely in public places. His real name is uncertain but he has been identified as Robert or Robin Banks or Robin Gunningham (Daily Mail, 14 July 2008). His identity is kept secret, supposedly because of the illicit nature of his activities, but purported photographs have been published in British newspapers. The work usually has some political significance, as in his well-known image of a demonstrator throwing a flower where one would expect to find a Molotov cocktail. He makes witty use of the illusionistic properties of stencil against wall. One of the best, on a sexual health clinic in Bristol, believed to be Banksy's native city, shows a naked man clinging from a window ledge. Banksy's works have been further disseminated by popular books on his work such as Wall and Piece (2005). He has also introduced works surreptitiously into museums. The British Museum was the involuntary host for a picture of a cave man with a shopping trolley, which it subsequently accessioned. Banksy has made more marketable works which have been collected by film stars such as Brad Pitt. They include parodies of the paintings of others, such as a version of Vettriano's Singing Butler set on a polluted beach. He has shown extraordinary skill in keeping himself in the news with such activities as smuggling a man dressed in the orange costume of a Guantanamo Bay inmate into Disneyland. For his Los Angeles exhibition ‘Barely Legal’ in 2006 he introduced an elephant painted to match the wallpaper. The explanation was that it represented the ‘elephant in the room’, the issues we choose to ignore such as poverty in the developing world. When an exhibition of his work was held at the City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol, in 2010 considerable secrecy surrounded the installation. Only a few museum officials were in the know before the opening. Banksy commented that ‘This is the first show I've ever done where taxpayers' money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off.’ Banksy's own film about his work Exit Through the Gift Shop was released in 2010.

Further Reading

S. Hattenstone, ‘Something to Spray’, The Guardian (17 July 2003)

Subjects: Art.

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