Categories: BanksyLiving people20th-century English paintersEnglish male painters21st-century English paintersArtists from BristolCulture jammingEnglish activistsEnglish contemporary artistsEnglish film directorsEnglish graffiti artistsEnglish satiristsGuerilla artistsPolitical artistsPseudonymous artistsStreet artistsAnti-consumeristsUnidentified peoplePranksters
With site-specific works like Hammer Boy, Banksy and other street artists encourage viewers to envision urban spaces, surfaces, and objects differently, and to see fun and whimsy in otherwise mundane spaces. In this way, street artists have much the same mentality as skateboarders or people who practice parkour. For all of these groups, city spaces and surfaces are not restricted to their prescribed uses. Instead, participants feel the freedom to co-opt and repurpose the urban environment. A fire hydrant is not just for holding water, it can also become a child's plaything. A handrail is not only for holding and supporting oneself, it can also become a tool for enacting daring acrobatic feats.
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Choosing a tag or graffiti name was common in this subculture to brand work and to avoid arrest. This is the name that he has stuck with since. The Bristol street artists adopted graffiti-style pseudonyms and painted in collaborative groups or ‘crews’. His earliest influence was musician and graffiti writer 3D, one of the pioneers who brought free-hand, spraycan-style graffiti writing to the UK from the New York subways.
Banksy painted the Grim Reaper on the waterside of the moored boat, so the only way he could have done it would have been by sailing out in a rowing boat or something, most likely under cover of darkness. The Reaper is quite large – a couple of metres, and because of its position, it was unlikely to ever be stolen. It wouldn’t just have caused a lot of attention in the harbour, but potentially have sunk the boat! It was probably more hassle than any vandal would be bothered with. But with it being so close to the waterline the big problem was deterioration.
The people—and the apes and rats—he drew in these early days have a strange, primitive feel to them. My favorite is a piece that greets you when you enter the Pierced Up tattoo parlor in Bristol. The wall painting depicts giant wasps (with television sets strapped on as additional weapons) divebombing a tempting bunch of flowers in a vase. Parlor manager Maryanne Kemp recalls Banksy’s marathon painting session: “It was an all-nighter.”
Banksy is no stranger to controvery, but sometimes it is not the pieces of his art you would expect that prove to be the most divisive. Tox is one of those pieces. In June 2011, graffiti lover Daniel Halpin, aka Tox was convicted of tagging multiple locations over a three year period. The prosecution mocked him as ‘no Banksy’ due to a lack of artistry in his tagging. In response Banksy put up the piece which shows a little boy writing ‘Tox’ in bubbles. Opinion is split as to whether this is a show of solidarity or being used to poke fun at Halpin. Location of Tox.
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There exists a debate about the influence behind his work. Some critics claim Banksy was influenced by musician and graffiti artist 3D. Another source credits the artist's work to resemble that of French graffiti artist called Blek le Rat. It is said that Banksy was inspired by their use of stencils, later taking this visual style and transforming it through modern political and social pieces.
The crazy thing is that at the time we were trying to sell the house, but couldn’t sell it because of the graffiti. People went, “We love the house, but we’re not buying it with all that stuff on the side.” Then we had this bright idea of selling the Banksy and throwing the house in for free as a publicity stunt for the urban art gallery Red Propeller we were starting.
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Banksy once characterised graffiti as a form of underclass "revenge", or guerilla warfare that allows an individual to snatch away power, territory and glory from a bigger and better equipped enemy. Banksy sees a social class component to this struggle, remarking "If you don't own a train company then you go and paint on one instead." Banksy's work has also shown a desire to mock centralised power, hoping that their work will show the public that although power does exist and works against you, that power is not terribly efficient and it can and should be deceived.
By 2008, despite the global financial crash, a Banksy 'vandalised' version of a Damien Hirst painting sold for over $1.8m. High profile art collectors and celebrities spend thousands to own a Banksy. Among the rich and famous, designer Paul Smith, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are known to be Banksy collectors. After claims that his success meant that he had sold out, Banksy said: “I love the way capitalism finds a place – even for its enemies. It’s boom time in the discontent industry.”
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This particular Banksy lasted only 4 months from May 2008 to August 2008. It was created in Leake Street Tunnel (also known as Banksy Tunnel) a designated graffiti area. It was soon covered with other works, such is the ever changing nature of the tunnel. It is an ironic piece that showed ancient cave paintings being cleaned by a council worker, highlighting how art is often destroyed by those who don’t understand it. Is Banksy referencing the destruction of his own work?
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The Thekla boat in Bristol was originally tagged by Banksy in 2003. The moored nightclub boat’s owners posted an image of the “tag” on their website and asked their customers whether it should stay. The response was to keep it, but Bristol City Council later ordered its removal. Years after its removal, Banksy returned and re-painted the Grim Reaper in the same spot where it remains to this day. Grim Reaper (Thekla) location