Graffiti sprayers rarely gain public recognition. Her pictures, messages, and drawings are rarely considered art. But one thing isn’t: Banksy.
His graffiti made with the help of stencils is admired around the world. For around 30 years, Banksy’s pictures, scenes, or sayings have been appearing, decorating bridges, houses, or street corners in London, Hamburg, or New York – and making people think.
Banksy is a phenomenon. And yet a phantom.
Despite the success, it is not known who Banksy is. Is it Robert Del Naja from the band “Massive Attack”? Or the inconspicuous graphic designer Robert Gunningham? Or is there a kind of artist collective behind the name Banksy? Even with the help of computer software that compares movement profiles with personal data such as address or workplace and that is used to track down criminals and terrorists, attempts have been made to find out Banksy’s identity – without success.
In Banksy’s rare public appearances, a male hide behind a paper bag on his head, and Banksy conducts interviews in writing. A committee confirms the authenticity of his works – and that only in rare cases. We don’t know much about Banksy, except that he probably comes from Bristol’s southern English city and is in his 40s. When a star becomes a star, who reveals as much about himself as possible on Instagram, Banksy is an exotic one. It’s part of its success, some say. But that doesn’t do its job justice.
Even if art critics downgrade his art as “flat,” “populist,” and “with the artistic depth of a tweet”: When a new Banksy suddenly appears somewhere in the world, people are thrilled. Despite, or perhaps because of, the clear message that lies behind the pictures.
Banksy is not beautiful but clear. And that on purpose. “Art can be loud, rough and clear,” is Banksy’s motto. He doesn’t care if his works are well received. “If a worker works for me, you can’t take it away from me,” he says in one of his rare interviews. “Something popular is not necessarily evil or mindless.”
In his works, Banksy combines reality with illusion, beautiful with ugly. As with the masked demonstrator who stretches to throw and does not hold a Molotov cocktail in his hand, but a bouquet. Or the girl knew from “Les Misérables” who enveloped Banksy in a cloud of tear gas. The graffiti appeared in London in 2016 across the street from the French embassy as a criticism of the evacuation of the refugee camp in Calais.
Banksy has a special gift, judged the “Time” magazine a few years ago when it named the British one of the most influential artists of all time: he makes social and political statements with humor. “He does not ignore borders; he crosses them to prove their insignificance.”
Not all of Bansky’s works are socially critical. Like the delicate ornamentation of a utility hole cover with two women’s silhouette, it makes the iron arch of the cover reminiscent of a romantic bridge in Venice. Or the stencil of a visibly embarrassed robot who is caught spraying a barcode.
Most of the time, Banksy’s works stimulate thought. And he doesn’t want to hide the message – he wants to show it. “When you go to a museum, you are nothing more than a tourist marveling at the trophies of some millionaires,” Banksy once said in one of his rare interviews.
His works, on the other hand, are part of everyday life. If they’re in museums, it’s because Banksy smuggled them into them. Like the supposed cave painting that he installed in the renowned British Museum in London. It showed a man pushing a shopping trolley and was labeled with the remark that it was made by an artist “who created considerable works of art in the south-east of England and was known by the nickname” Banksymus Maximus. “
Unfortunately, a large part of his work was destroyed by “overzealous municipal employees who did not recognize the importance of his artistic work on the walls.” Banksy can no longer be seen in the British Museum, either. What happened to the piece is not known.
Five years ago, when his graffiti was already being sold for more than half a million dollars to art collectors such as billionaire Mark Getty, US actor Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Banksy set up a small sales booth in New York. For $ 60, you could buy signed prints: an elephant with a rocket on its back, a rat with a jackhammer, or a demonstrator throwing a bouquet.
They did not know that the buyers were buying a “real Banksy.” The artist only made it public one day after the auction. Banksy’s art is widespread – in the most real sense of the word.