Banksy started as a freehand graffiti artist in 1990–1994 as one of Bristol's DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ), with two other artists known as Kato and Tes. He was inspired by local artists and his work was part of the larger Bristol underground scene with Nick Walker, Inkie and 3D. During this time he met Bristol photographer Steve Lazarides, who began selling Banksy's work, later becoming his agent. By 2000 he had turned to the art of stencilling after realising how much less time it took to complete a work. He claims he changed to stencilling while hiding from the police under a rubbish lorry, when he noticed the stencilled serial number and by employing this technique, he soon became more widely noticed for his art around Bristol and London. He was the goalkeeper for the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls football team in the 1990s, and toured with the club to Mexico in 2001. Banksy's first known large wall mural was The Mild Mild West painted in 1997 to cover advertising of a former solicitors' office on Stokes Croft in Bristol. It depicts a teddy bear lobbing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.
In 2003, at an exhibition called Turf War, held in a London warehouse, Banksy painted on animals. At the time he gave one of his very few interviews, to the BBC's Nigel Wrench. Although the RSPCA declared the conditions suitable, an animal rights activist chained herself to the railings in protest. An example of his subverted paintings is Monet's Water Lily Pond, adapted to include urban detritus such as litter and a shopping trolley floating in its reflective waters; another is Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, redrawn to show that the characters are looking at a British football hooligan, dressed only in his Union Flag underpants, who has just thrown an object through the glass window of the cafe. These oil paintings were shown at a twelve-day exhibition in Westbourne Grove, London in 2005.
Located in a car park on Broadway, Downtown LA, Swing Girl is another example of Banksy making use of what was already there. The ‘ing’ portion of the parking sign have been whitewashed out to form park and a girl on a swing added to the letter A. It seems clear that it is a comment on how there is a lack of places for kids to play safely in what is a fairly rough area of LA. The artwork appeared in 2010 a few days prior to the LA première of Banksy’s film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Swing Girl location
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The war on terror was declared soon after 9/11. This Banksy piece is intended to highlight the “secrer” war on terror that has taken place – primarily at Guantanamo Bay where terror suspects are detained. This Guantanamo Bay detainee in Islington is a less than subtle reminder that we do not live an entirely free society. The image has since been removed although its precise location in Islington is unknown.
Banksy's artistry lies in his ability to use humor and sardonic wit to trick viewers into contemplating the underlying seriousness of his messages about capitalism, advertising, politics, and humanity. It is this very sense of innocent whimsy coupled with daring, glaring truths about our times that lift him to a role as potent social mediator all under the guise of art.
With this work, Banksy is drawing a parallel between the ancient, prehistoric cave paintings, and modern-day graffiti / street art. While it is standard practice for the latter to be cleaned off of walls, it would be unthinkable for the same fate to befall the former. In this way, the artist questions the value placed on certain works of art, and the label of "vandalism" assigned to others.
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It was reported that then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Banksy a vandal whose work is not the definition of art, and that the NYPD's vandal squad was on the hunt for Banksy over his various graffiti art and installations. One creation was a fiberglass sculpture of Ronald McDonald and a real person, barefoot and in ragged clothes, shining the oversized shoes of Ronald McDonald. The sculpture was unveiled in Queens but moved outside a different McDonald's around the city every day. Other works included a YouTube video showing what appears to be footage of jihadist militants shooting down an animated Dumbo; travelling installations that toured the city including a slaughterhouse delivery truck full of stuffed animals and a waterfall; and a modified painting donated to a charity shop which was later sold in an online auction for $615,000. Banksy also posted a mock-up of a New York Times op-ed attacking the design of the One World Trade Center after the Times rejected his submission. The residency in New York concluded on 31 October 2013; many of the pieces, though, were either vandalised, removed or stolen.
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