The name Banksy ignites controversy, starts conversations and piques curiosity. Banksy is undoubtedly the most controversial street artist to emerge on the global stage. The fact that his identity remains unknown after 20 years on the graffiti scene only adds to the intrigue that surrounds his work. The works of Banksy have appeared in America, Australia, Canada, England, France, Israel, Jamaica and Palestine. Wherever Banksy goes, he makes an impact. His pictorial and satirical messages cross the boundaries between art, philosophy, politics, sociology, humor and narcissism.
Banksy is the godfather of a new form of pop art that originated on the street. He used a foundation created by peers to spread powerful messages using accessible street art. Anyone can see Banksy’s stencil art, which enables him to reach a large audience and to make strong statements.
The works of Banksy are often inspired by other street art luminaries and classical artists. This is another controversial area. Banksy has credited 3D of the British band Massive Attack as a source of inspiration. However, connections to the French graffiti artist Blek le Rat, who is known as the Father of Stencil Graffiti, have caused much more commotion.
Banksy has been active on the graffiti scene since the early 1990s. He was first associated with a gang of underground street artists in Bristol who were known as the DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ). In Bristol, he partnered with Inkie and other notable artists who still work with Banksy.
By 2000, Banksy moved to London and stayed with friends Luke Egan and Jamie Eastman. Eastman worked at a record label that used several of Banksy’s illustrations. Banksy was reportedly staying in a flat in London’s Hackney neighborhood when numerous works of art began appearing in the area. While in London, Banksy’s work experienced a great deal of exposure and gained notoriety that led to a series of international exhibits.
By 2006, Banksy was a fringe street artist who had reached the big time in a big way. In 2005, Banksy traveled to Palestine and the West Bank where he stenciled nine images on the Bethlehem Wall. These works show children digging and playing near the wall, an armored dove with an olive branch, a girl frisking a soldier, a ladder ascending the wall, a girl floating over the wall with balloons and several other pieces. This groundbreaking series led to a second exhibit in Los Angeles entitled Barely Legal. This three-day exhibit featured a variety of vandalized art and a pink “elephant in the room,” which symbolizes the ever-present issue of world poverty.
Although over the years he grew increasingly famous, Banksy remained anonymous; his rare interviews were conducted via e-mail or with responses delivered by an altered voice on tape. He has remained committed to street art, declaring that life in a city in which graffiti was legal would be “like a party where everyone was invited.”