Few modern artists have had as big a success as Banksy. This Bristol-based anonymous man has been active since at least the 1990s. At the time the act of graffiti was considered vandalism and deemed illegal by the UK police. Banksy has created various graffiti murals around England. This is done with a very distinct style that involves heavy stencilling.

These murals will very often have a political point to make. They are designed to be subversive and sometimes shocking. It is common for them to show a common aspect of modern life but with a bitter and biting edge. Dark humour is an essential element in Banksy’s work. So too is social commentary which points out issues such as class, race and hypocrisy.

Origins

Banksy’s origins can be traced back to the underground scene in Bristol. He often collaborated with other artists, as well as independent musicians. The founding member of Massive Attack known as 3D was an important influence on his work. The most well-known examples of Banksy’s work are graffiti images sprayed onto public spaces. However, he has also created public installations and even a film called Exit Through The Gift Shop. His physical work fetches a high price at auctions, making it very desirable amongst collectors.

Notable Work

  • Balloon With Girl

Banksy created several versions of this image. It shows a little girl letting go of a red balloon. He later sold a print version of the image at an auction. When it was sold a mechanical device inside the frame shredded the print. This appears to have been a statement on consumerism.

  • Vote To Leave

The EU referendum was a divisive moment in British history. Banksy took iconography from the “Vote Leave” campaign and placed a red heart balloon over the letters E and A. This changed the message to “Vote Love”. A print of this was submitted to the Royal Academy under a pseudonym and initially rejected.

  • Origami Swan

Banksy spray-painted the image of an origami swan next to a river in the town of Lyme Regis. When the water rises high enough, it submerges the picture. Over the years the paint has begun to wash away, creating a statement about climate change.

  • Slave Labour

The Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics were important dates in the British calendar. However, child labour was used to create merchandise for it. This painting shows an urchin sewing Union Jack bunting.

  • Dismaland

In 2015 Banksy created a parody of theme parks. It brings together a number of art installations. Tickets for Dismaland were in high demand. It was visited by thousands of people including such high profile celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Jack Black and Russell Brand.