Who is Banksy? The Most Comprehensive Study of His Life and Street Art


Given the interwebs always seems to be aflutter with news about Banksy given his recent stunt where he shredded his own work at Sotheby’s after it sold for $1.25 million USD (see that HERE), we thought we’d show you the most comprehensive collection of his street art in one spot.

Banksy developed an entire art subculture devoted to his works. Banksy’s art can impact any location at any given moment. His identity remains unknown, even after over 20 years of being involved with the graffiti and street art scene. His work not only includes many powerful, often controversial images, but they may also be found throughout the Internet as viral images.

Banksy began his graffiti art lifestyle by admiring the works of Blek Le Rat and often recycling his old ideas. He has been very active in the graffiti scene since the early 1990s. Initially, he hung around a graffiti crew in Bristol by the name of DryBreadZ crew or DBZ. Soon after, he began to partner with Inkie, another notable graffiti street artist.

By the age of 18, Banksy began to develop stencils after nearly being caught vandalizing public spaces by police. As his crew fled from the scene, Banksy was stuck hiding beneath a garbage truck. It was at this time that Banksy saw stencil letters on the truck. Looking for a faster way to paint, Banksy decided stenciling would be his new graffiti type.

The most common form of street art Banksy uses are stencils. These are often in the form of multi-layered stencils and/or combined with other media sources, such as spray-paint. He also includes anything found in the streets like street signs and other objects to convey his message by crafting beautiful street art installations. His artwork is often satirical and combines dark humor with graffiti and also spread messages across art, philosophy, and politics.

By the early 2000s, Banksy relocated to London, where he began to gain notoriety and even worked on a series of international exhibits. Eventually, he decided to travel to Palestine and the West Bank, where he stenciled nine images on the Bethlehem Wall. These images were an instant hit and virally exploded in the Internet.

At this time, Banksy’s silkscreen prints and stencil paintings were racking up record-breaking sales in storied art auctions such as Sotheby’s and Bonham’s of London. These successful sales officially broke him into the commercial business. In 2010 Banksy became a successful author and filmmaker for the film “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

Very little is known about Banksy himself, as he refuses to be interviewed (except for this interview here), and keeps his identity carefully maintained. A world-renowned mystery man, Banksy has risen through the ranks to become one of the world’s greatest street artists partly by creating an urgency to understand hischaracter. Street art fanatics are consistently satisfied with every piece of art he delivers, though he often leaves them wanting more. This tactic carries one’s curiosity to explore a completely new perspective or idea, leaving his artistic creations to inspire beginning and advanced artists. This inspiration is also known as the “Banksy Effect.”

The media and his supporters have always questioned Banksy’s identity due to a variety of identity claims. Most recently, many popular theories, including an entire newspaper publication, pointed his identity at being a Bristol native by the name of Robin Gunninham. This was later proven to be a hoax. It has also been claimed that Banksy is in fact Mr Brainwash or Robert Del Naja from band Massive Attack (see here). What is even more interesting is that he has managed to completely conceal his identity from his family. To this date, no Banksy identity claim has ever been definitive, although several unsubstantiated sightings have occurred (see here).

Banksy’s art has been seen across the world. His travels have included Australia, England, the United States, Israel, Jamaica, and even Canada.

So who is Banksy? He/she/they is a mystery to all and we’d like to keep it that way :)

Here are artFido’s top 114 works by Banksy. Vote on your favorite!

But before we get started, here’s the footage of Banksy’s work “Balloon Girl” being mysteriously shredded after being sold for USD $1.25 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London on Friday night. Did Banksy do it? Is he in the crowd?

  1. 1 ‘Stained window’, completed with students from the City of Angels Public School in Los Angeles. Exhibited in August 2011 in 'Art in the Streets' at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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  2. 2 Leake Street Tunnel, London, circa 2008

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  3. 3 Escape to paradise, circa March 2017.

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  4. 4

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  5. 5 The Agency Job (after 'The Gleaners' by Jean-François Millet), exhibited in 'Banksy vs Bristol Museum, 13 July - 31 August 2009. Private Collection.

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  6. 6 FOLLOW YOUR [CANCELLED] DREAMS, painted around the back of a Chinatown restaurant, Boston, circa May 2010.

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  7. 7 Pillow Fight at the Walled Off Hotel

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  8. 8 Ostriches CCTV, painted on wall at National Gallery London, circa December 2011.

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  9. 9

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  10. 10

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