Banksy is one of the most well-known artists in the UK, although it’s actually a pseudonym, given the identity and real name of the artist still remain unconfirmed. Banksy is widely thought to be Robin Gunningham, born July 1973, and is believed to live in London but the mystery of who this artist really is remains one of the greatest questions in the art world to date.
Banksy’s signature is graffiti, which first started as freehand graffiti in the Bristol underground. This later turned to stencilling, which enabled the artist to create the works of art much more quickly. Banksy’s works are iconic and easily recognisable with a certain use of colours and an individual style. This street art pops up on streets, walls and bridges around the world and makes strong political statements, often with dark humour. Some of the most iconic political pieces include “Stop and Search” (2007) representing defiance towards police authority, “Bomb Hugger” (2003) in an anti-war protest, “Vote to Love” (2016) during the European Union referendum in the UK and “Port Talbot” (2018) which makes a statement about the steel industry and pollution.
Most of Banksy’s artwork is on murals, found in big cities. However, many of these walls are then removed and sold on. One of the key priorities on Banksy’s part is that this artwork should be freely seen and accessible to everyone. Banksy’s first known mural was “The Mild Mild West” (1999) found on the wall of a solicitors’ office in Bristol. This depicted a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at 3 riot police. In their iconic satirical style, most of the political messages contain rats, police, children, apes, soldiers and the elderly.
Although Banksy is well-known in the UK, the artwork can be found across the world. Pieces include “Rat with 3D Glasses” in Utah, “Pillow Fight” in Palestine and “The Mourning Figure” in Paris.
Nowadays, some of the work can be found in exhibitions and art galleries, most notably The Art of Banksy private collection, which travels around the world. Most artwork reaches at least six-figure sums. Works such as “Bombing Middle England” reached £102,000 and “Space Girl and Bird” was auctioned off for £288,000.
In 2018, at Sotheby’s auction room, “Balloon Girl” sold for £1.04m but as soon as the gavel dropped, an alarm sounded and the canvas began to be shredded from within the frame and Banksy posted an image of this with the words “Going, going, gone….”. This received huge media coverage and the buyer would see a huge return on this piece of art which has now become history too. Sotherby’s released a statement saying “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one .. the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction”. It has since been reported the half-shredded painting sold for $25.4 million!