Who is Banksy?


Oct 09, 2014 by Smart Blog

Staff at Tendring Council in Essex have confessed to ordering the destruction of a mural by renowned street/video/graffiti artist Banksy, which was painted in Clacton-on-Sea, because they had received complaints that it was racist.



The mural, which features feral pigeons protesting with placards at the presence of an exotic bird, is still on Banksy's website, but the original was chemically destroyed.

It appeared in Clacton in the run-up to an election, and is generally seen as an ironic (and critical) comment on political policies against immigration. In short, far from being racist, the mural is actually a work that seeks to highlight the stupidity of racism.

What makes Tendring Council's action even more interesting is that Banksy's work can be worth a fortune: in 2008 his canvas entitled 'Keep it Spotless' sold for US$1,870,000.



Banksy himself - his real name has never been revealed - is no stranger to controversy. Treading a fine line between graffiti and 'proper' art, he is celebrated for using street art as a means of social commentary, as seems to have been the case in Clacton.

Banksy deliberately makes his work accessible, and this accessibility has been heightened by a number of parodies and adaptations of his work by other people. A quick internet search reveals Banksy's work re-imagined in Lego, Banksy works in the form of animated .gif files and various other forms of 'homage'. Many of these spread quickly through social media, raising Banksy's profile far above those of most other contemporary artists.

The artist himself has used a number of 'guerrilla' tactics to make his points. These include contributing to TV show The Simpsons, selling his own works anonymously in street markets for a fraction of their commercial value and, of course, using his art to make pointed social and political comments in highly visible places. He has also produced spoof bank notes and parodied famous works by Monet and Edward Hopper.


The smart set

Banksy remains officially anonymous, although it is widely accepted that he comes from Bristol and has been closely associated with that city's underground art scene. Given these 'underground' origins; it would be interesting to know Banksy's feelings about becoming the new darling of the smart art set.

That process seems to have begun in 2006, when American pop star Christina Aguilera bought some of his work. Since then prices paid for Banksy's work have risen exponentially and with them, some argue, the status and commercial value of other graffiti and street artists.

It has not all been plain sailing, however, and Banksy is not without his critics. Some claim that he has merely copied the style and approach of other artists, specifically the French graffiti artist Blek Le Rat, while others deride his work as mere vandalism. Certainly, Tendring Council is not the only local authority to have had a 'public Banksy' destroyed. Even some graffiti artists describe the stencil techniques that Banksy uses as "cheating.”

Whatever opinions others hold, it seems that success is here to stay for Banksy. Whether the art world ever finds out his real identity, who their street-art darling actually is, is another matter entirely.