Who is Banksy? The art may be recognizable, but the artist largely remains a mystery.
And he’d like to keep it that way. Banksy has said: “I have no interest in ever coming out. I’m just trying to make the pictures look good; I’m not into trying to make myself look good. And besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that the reality of me would be a crushing disappointment to a couple of 15-year-old kids out there.”
The artist’s real name is believed to be Robert Banks, born in 1974 in England, although public uncertainty regarding these biographical details exists. In July 2008, The Mail on Sunday claimed that Banksy’s real name is Robin Gunningham.
Philosophy and Style
Banksy once stated: “People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that’s only if it’s done properly.”
The manifesto on his website reads:
“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness.” — Emo Philips
Inspired by local artists in Bristol, Banksy began creating graffiti art in 1992. His street art can be seen in cities around the world. Using a stenciling technique, Banksy creates images, often accompanied by text, that are at times humorous, provocative, political, ambiguous—but always provide an opportunity for dialogue. Subjects include monkeys, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly. His most well-known and identified subject is the rat.
Banksy has acknowledged the influence of Blek le Rat, stating: “Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it, too, … only Blek did it 20 years earlier.”
In 1998 Banksy arranged the “Walls On Fire” graffiti jam with fellow graffiti artist Inkie. The weekend-long event drew artists from all over Europe, and Banksy’s involvement established his name within the European graffiti scene.
Banksy created the cover art for Blur’s 2003 album Think Tank, shown below.