Banksy is one of the most prominent artist of street art but nobody has ever managed to give him a face or an identity. His social-problems-inspired pieces of art became worldwide famous and you can find them almost all over the world. Here a guided tour among the most beautiful works of Banksy you can still admire
If you ever roamed art stands in some local markets, you most surely bumped into a reproduction of a Banksy. And probably you even bought it.
Who is Banksy? Just like a superhero, everyone tried to unmask him, but up to today no one could give a name or a face to the artist, not even The Daily Beast or other newspapers that tried to. What we know for sure is that he was born in Bristol, where he joined the local Dry Breadz Crew. With them, he painted his first freehanded works before changing to stencilling, which made him widely famous. In the book Wall and Piece Banksy himself tells that the idea of using stencils first came to him a night that he was running from the police.
Hidden under a rubbish lorry, he noticed its stencilled serial number and realized how faster it would have been to complete a work. Consequently, it would have been easier to avoid the police, too. That’s how anonymous walls of British suburbs started to be covered by satirical graffiti charged with irony and black humour and treating most relevant social plagues.
Even if Banksy’s graffiti are his most recognisable works, his provocations go beyond street art. In 2005 he got in and out of New York Metropolitan Museum hanging on a wall You have beautiful eyes, a nineteenth-century kind of painting depicting a woman wearing a gas mask. Other major museums share the same fate: Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, New York Natural History Museum, Tate Britain and British Museum all unconsciously displayed a Banksy.
The year after he held in Los Angeles his Barely Legal exposition, featuring a live 37-year-old elephant completely painted in pink and gold, just like the wallpaper of the perfectly British living room it was put in. As in the typical English expression, the elephant in the room represents a problem that, no matter how obvious it is, people keep overlooking. In this specific case, Banksy wanted to draw attention on world poverty.
Besides museums, Banksy also invaded TV in 2010, when he directed the opening sequence of a The Simpsons’ episode. In this first scene, Asian children, helped by pandas and unicorns, are producing in deplorable conditions TV show’s cell-by-cell and merchandising. A few months before, his documentary Exit through the gift shop about street art and market contradictions is presented at Sundance Festival, while it will be nominated as Best Documentary at 2011 Academy Awards. More recently, in August 2015, he opens Dismaland in Somerset.
It’s a dark amusement park featuring a ruined fairy tale castle. It hosts, among other attractions, installations by over 50 artists such as Damien Hirst and Jimmy Cauty. When the park closed his gates after six weeks, all the material was transferred to Calais to build shelters for migrants gathering in the port. Banksy himself visited the French city and painted two graffiti on the so-called Jungle’s walls: one depicts Steve Jobs, son of a Syrian migrant, with an old computer in his hands and the other inspired by The Raft of the Medusa.
War. Poverty. Capitalism. Politics:These are the themes loved by the artist. They are the same topics widely discussed by newspapers and TV all over the world and daily treated by websites. They are the same events under everyone’s eyes and that we know too well. Yet, every new work by Banksy is a total shock. And here lies all the power of his art. His works make us smile and think at the same time. Getting to a sense of immediacy and forcefulness that only pictures can reach. While all the words written or spoken cannot make us feel the same.
Many of Banksy’s works are now covered or vandalized. But some others resist on walls all across the world. The Italian Eye Magazine will escort you into the most important and meaningful of them.