Vital Information (09-22-10)

In Rich, Street Art, Vital Information on September 22, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , ,


For those of you with no previous knowledge of Banksy, he is perhaps the most famous street artist that hasn’t done a campaign poster for the leader of the free world.  His snarky social commentary has been stenciled on walls, streets, bridges and pretty much every other public surface from London to New York to Tokyo and has resulted in a cult following that tracks his every move religiously.

Banksy has been an integral part of the graffiti world since his involvement in the Bristol scene of the late 80s, and although he started out using freehand technique, he has revolutionized the use of stencils in street art and aside from Blek Le Rat, is the name most associated with popularizing this now common medium.  The past few years have been particularly important for Banksy’s reputation, and has spawned a celebrity following as well as his first film “Exit Through The Gift Shop“.

As mentioned earlier, Banksy’s work is characterized by  his stencil technique and satirical nature.  His most frequent messages are centered in anti-capitalism, anti-establishment and anti-war sentiments, the third of which spawned some of his most famous work such as the Man Throwing Flower Grenade or the Dove With Bullet Proof Vest.

In addition to his street work, Banksy has also held several galleries in cities such as Los Angeles, Amsterdam, London, Bristol (his hometown) and New York.  In 2008 for his first New York exhibit, Banksy turned a small storefront in the West Village into a pet shop called “Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill” using animatronic pets to create scenes you wouldn’t see in your everyday pet shop.  For example, one piece included a mother hen watching over her chicken mcnuggets as they sip BBQ sauce, and another one featured a small white rabbit looking into a vanity mirror while doing it’s makeup.  Here’s a short video of the exhibit as well as a slightly longer tour of the storefront as words can hardly do the event justice.

In addition to his more serious works, Banksy is also know for his pranks.  His most famous of which would have to be replacing over 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s debut album in 48 U.K. music stores with songs remixed by Danger Mouse and reworked Cover Art which he did himself.  Some of the song titles included “Why Am I Famous?”, “What Have I Done?” and “What Am I For?”.

Perhaps the best term I’ve heard to describe Banksy is “Guerilla Artist”.  He’s unpredictable, confrontational and incendiary in the way he approaches his career and his work.  He’s held galleries, self-published books and even won an award for “art’s greatest living Briton”, but still nobody knows who he truly is (more on theories of  his identity next week).  Banksy is a star in a world that seems to be increasingly populated by artists looking to live rock star lifestyles, but manages to keep his identity secret and his “street cred” largely in tact.  One of the root concepts of graffiti was the idea of only being known by your tag in order to avoid being caught by the cops for your not exactly legal work.  Banksy maintains this commitment to the ideals of his trade despite other artists abandonment of this ethos as street art gains increasing acceptance in mainstream pop culture.  This is something to be respected, and will hopefully serve as a model for young artists coming up in the street art scene.

Here are some more places you can check out Banksy’s work (most are fan sites and not maintained by Banksy himself):

Banksy’s Website

Banksy on Flickr

Banksy on Facebook

Banksy on Tumblr

Banksy on Twitter



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