The mysterious Banksy is believed to have been born in Bristol, England, around 1974. His identity was wrapped in mystery from the outset. He is called the most elusive man in the art world, the riddle artist who's ably hiding his face for years. However, a few leads of who is hiding behind the alias of Banksy has developed.
One of the names most often suggested is Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack. Such a slip-up was once made by his friend DJ Goldie in one of the interviews.
He said:
"Give me a bubble letter and put it on a T-shirt and write Banksy on it and we're sorted. We can sell it now... No disrespect to Robert, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over."
Moreover, Banksy's works frequently appear in locations where Massive Attack have recently played.

In 2016, the specialists of the University of London attempted to identify the artist using a profiling technique. According to the latest data the person hiding behind the pseudonym of Banksy can be Robin Gunningham - a public school graduate from Bristol.

Banksy is considered to start his graffiti career in the late 1990s. Eventually, his works started becoming more extensive and their provocative nature allowed Banksy to quickly become famous in the UK, and later worldwide. He rose to prominence after placing his works on the walls of the largest museums in the United Kingdom and the United States. In order to work faster and avoid getting caught by the police he began to use stencils, which later developed into his signature style.

15 years ago, Banksy made an ironic installation inside the British Museum. He installed a stone in one of the museum halls, stylized as a rock carving with a wounded buffalo and a man with a supermarket painted on it, adding a detailed description to the exhibit. During the day the staff of the museum hadn't been noticing anything.
Banksy's artwork often engages events in public and political life, boldly critiquing ruling class, capitalism, violence, racism, hypocrisy and greed.
Among his best-known works are the couple from «Pulp Fiction» and the «Kissing Coppers».
The first painting originated in 2002 near the Old Street subway station in London. It depicted an iconic scene from Quentin Tarantino's movie with one detail replaced: instead of pistols the movie heroes hold bright yellow bananas in their hands thus making the work clearly anti-militarist. But a sorry plight in the face of the Transport Service of London awaited the work: it was painted over because of the «adverse influence on society». The company justified its actions by stating that it employs professional cleaners instead of art critics.

«Kissing Coppers» graffiti appearing on the wall of a Brighton pub quickly became a city landmark, but remained in this status for a very short time. In 2014, the work was sold for $575,000 at the Miami auction. The painting satirized homophobia and was not by accident placed on the wall of that particular pub which was considered gay at the time.
In 2010, Banksy released his famous movie «Exit Through the Gift Shop», which was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Later the picture was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for «Oscar» and BAFTA awards. Although Banksy himself became the central character, he appears in the film hooded up with his voice distorted.

The film tells the story of a French gift shop-keeper and amateur film-maker. At first, he is constantly documenting adventures of his graffiti artist brother, and then he turns into a street artist himself, nicknamed Mister Brainwash. The man's real name is Thierry Guetta, and he and Banksy have a long-standing friendship. Long before the shooting of the film, he endured four hours of interrogation by the police and did not tell them who Banksy was.
Another legendary Banksy's graffiti that everyone should recognize is "The Naked Man". It appeared on the building of a sexually transmitted disease clinic in the center of Bristol. The plot of the painting is simple and even anecdotal: a naked lover is hanging from the window sill while husband looks out of the window in the opposite direction. The city council decided to preserve the painting and even allocated funds to restore it after vandals shot the graffiti with paintball guns.

Banksy's unquestionable virtue is his support that he gives to artists around the world. For instance, he has a painting dedicated to Pasha 183, a street artist from Russia who passed away in April 2013 at the age of 29. It depicts a can of paint with a fire burning over it. The work was titled "P183. R.I.P."
Another Banksy's work is dedicated to Zehra Dogan, a Turkish artist who was imprisoned in 2017 for creating a painting which depicted the destruction caused by Turkish security forces in the Nusaybin district. Zehra was found guilty of "depicting ongoing military operations and violating curfews" for which she was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

2015 saw the largest installation of Banksy's career, the apocalyptic theme park Dismaland, which was running for five weeks. During that time a major show with film screenings and performances by several musicians were held there. The word Dismaland comes from the English "dismal" - dystopian, dismal. The underlying idea of the park was a satirical reinvention of Disneyland. Its most noticeable art object was an inverted carriage with Cinderella which recalls the car crash that killed Princess Diana.

Banksy is a civic-minded man who is not afraid to speak out on the most painful topics.
In 2016, he painted every single apartment in a hotel in Bethlehem, whose windows face the separation barrier built by the Israeli military. It shows a drawing Banksy made 12 years ago during his first visit to Bethlehem: a dove of peace in a bulletproof vest. Far back as 2004 the International Court of Justice determined that the barrier built by Israel violated international law, yet Israeli officials claim that the wall is intended to protect from Palestinian attacks which is lie.
Quite a large amount of the artist's works can be found on the streets of New York. For example, the rat on the face of the clock on the facade of one of the buildings. This animal is Banksy's favorite symbol, embodying anarchism and the triumph of the underprivileged. The clock has now been removed because the owners plan to sell it at auction. Another graffiti features a man wearing a construction helmet, waving an arrow (or chart line), chasing away children, a woman with an infant and an elderly man. This is an artist's outcry against the redevelopment of urban neighborhoods into luxury housing.

Banksy's artworks are often seen in the realm of political and anti-war discourse. In 2015, the artist created a graffiti on the wall of a refugee camp in Calais, France, depicting Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as a migrant from Syria.
"We're often led to believe migration is a drain on the country's resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant…
Apple is the world's most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes– and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs", - said Banksy
In October 2018, an unprecedented event occurred at Sotheby's: a famous "Girl with a Balloon" self-destructed in a saleroom after being sold at a price of $1.4 million. The act of self-destruction was immediately seen as an act of protest against the commercialization of art.

The next day, Banksy posted a video on his Instagram with the destruction of his painting.
"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge", – this was the citation following the video. According to British art dealer Offer Waterman, what happened to the "Girl with a Balloon" image is a brilliant PR move: "The value of the work will increase not so much because of the artwork itself, but because of the conceptual event associated with it," he told the New York Times.
The interest in everything the artist does is so intense that buyers and collectors of his works are now making their own exhibitions around the world, without coordinating it with Banksy himself (as was the case in Moscow). Read more about it in our Blog.
Text Anna Laza
Banksy Instagram
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