Vandal or genius

Vandal or genius

‘A wall is a very big weapon. It is one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.’

BANKSY is an agitator, and the wall is perfect for his message. Unavoidable, and literally in your face. He is a self-made enigma. His anonymity is a weapon. It protects him from prosecution for criminal damage for ‘defacing’ walls. And from being pestered. He is a contradiction, an anti-establishment artist who despises the art world, yet who uses it when convenient. ‘Art is a bit of a joke,’ he claims. ‘Modern art is a disaster area.’ In his Morons (2006-07), set in an auction house, the slogan in the picture being sold proclaims: ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MORONS ACTUALLY BUY THIS SHIT’. He once said – ‘Copyright is for losers.’ But then took action to protect his trademarks. His ‘agent’ is Pest Control. Its ‘mission’ is to handle ‘all the paperwork for the graffiti artist Banksy… and intercept hate mail.’  They add, in typical Banksy style, that if you’re a journalist you should contact them ‘for all statements, shrugs and pointless denials…’ They also ‘manage’ the Banksy market, despite his insistence that – ‘Commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist.’

The Daily Mail claims Banksy is Robin Gunningham, born in Bristol in 1973 (or 1974). In July 2019, he was voted Britain’s Favourite Artist, beating Leonardo, Picasso and Monet. You can see why.
His graffiti guerrilla actions – spray art, applied through clever stencil technology – has been seen around the world, from seaside fronts in Sussex to war-torn Ukraine. Funny, subversive, often playing with words, it is visual propaganda at its best. His targets are the venality of power, capitalism, the police; the catastrophe of war, pollution and cruelty. But drawn with panache. His most sensational two-finger gesture to the art world came in 2018 when his famous Girl with Balloon was sold for £1 million but, while the happy buyer looked on, destroyed itself with a shredder hidden in the frame. His signature motif is the rat, the outsider, the standard bearer of the rejected:

‘Rats exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth… If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.’


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