Banksy (real name Robert Banks, according to The Guardian) is a prolific graffiti artist born in 1974 in Bristol, England, whose artwork has appeared throughout London and other locations around the world.

Banksy uses different techniques to communicate a message, which is often political and/or humorous. His original street art form, which combines graffiti with a distinctive stencilling technique, has achieved a certain underground notoriety and widespread coverage in the mainstream media.

Banksy started as a freehand graffiti artist. He took up stencil graffiti after an incident while painting trains with a group of other graffiti artists. He was slower than the others, and they left him behind. The authorities came and he had to hide under one of the trains for several hours. He recalled that while hiding beneath a train, he spent a long while staring at a stencilled part number on the mechanism of the train's underside. At this moment, says Banksy, he received the inspiration for his stencilling technique.

Banksy's stencils are often site-specific. They have featured a wide range of striking and humorous images. Animals such as monkeys and rats are often portrayed. He also makes stickers (the Neighbourhood Watch subvert) and sculpture (the murdered phonebox).

Recently he has moved on to producing subverted paintings; one example is Monet's Water Lily Pond, adapted to include typical urban detritus such as litter and a shopping trolley floating in its reflective waters, another is Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, redrawn to show that the characters are looking at an English football hooligan dressed only in his Union Jack underpants, who has just thrown an object through the glass window of the cafe. These modified oil paintings were exhibited at a packed twelve day exhibition in Westbourne Grove, London in 2005.

Banksy has claimed responsibility for a number of high profile stunts. These include the following:

* At London Zoo, he climbed into the penguin enclosure and painted 'We're bored of fish' in two metre high letters.

* At Bristol Zoo, he left the message 'Keeper smells - Boring Boring Boring' in the elephant enclosure.

* In January 2001, he traveled to the areas controlled by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, and in sign of solidarity with their movement, he painted some murals with scenes depicting the struggle and also made stencils on the walls of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

* He was responsible for the cover art of Blur's 2003 album Think Tank.

* In March 2005, he placed subverted artworks in the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

* He put up a subverted painting in London's Tate Britain gallery.

* At the aforementioned exhibition in Westbourne Grove, there were real black rats living in the window space.

* May 2005 Banksy's version of primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife whilst pushing a shopping trolley was found hanging in the British Museum.

* In August, 2005, Banksy painted 9 images on the Palestinian side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.

* In June 2006, Banksy stencilled an image of a naked man hanging out of a bedroom window on a wall in central Bristol, England. The image sparked some controversy, with the Bristol City Council leaving it up to the public to decide whether it should stay or go. After an internet discussion in which 97% (all but 6 people) supported the stencil, the city council decided it would be left on the building.

Some stencils are created by using a computer to generate an image, and by utilizing a photo editing program to break down that image into layers, which are then subsequently printed and cut to be painted as the multiple layers of a stencil. Many stencil graffiti artists, including Banksy, hand draw and hand cut picture layers onto a medium such as cardboard or acetate, and, by using free-hand techniques such as shading, create highly detailed images that are quickly applied. This allows a stencil artist to incorporate far more detail into a small piece of work than a free-hand artist can, often in a piece ten times the size.

The registrant of Banksy's website is one Stephen Lazarides, a photographer, and it has been suggested that Lazarides is Banksy. However, Lazarides apparently claims to be Banksy's manager, and is credited with much of the photography in one of Banksy's recent publication, Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall. Lazarides now has a gallery on Greek St in London's Soho called Laz Inc, where Banksy originals can be bought, and also manages a website,, which has the exclusive sale rights for all of Banksy's cheaper limited edition prints.

Whilst creating artwork for Wall of Sounds's "Two Culture Clash" in Jamaica, a number of photographs were taken of Banksy by the event's official photographer, Peter Dean Rickards. After the pair had a number of disagreements, Rickards later sold the supposed photos of Banksy to the London Evening Standard. Rickards then published an article with photographs supposedly of Banksy. There were arguments for and against the veracity of the photographs. A Brian Sewell spoof website claims to show a photograph of Banksy. Banksy's parents think their son is a painter and a decorator.

Peter Gibson, spokesperson for Keep Britain Tidy, asserts that Banksy's work is simple vandalism. This political purpose behind his 'vandalism' is reminiscent of the Ad Jammers or subvertising movement, who deface corporate advertising to change the intended message and hijack the advert.

Banksy does paid work for charities (e.g., Greenpeace) and can demand up to £25,000 for canvases. It has also been alleged and denied that Banksy has done work with corporations such as Puma. This has led to him being accused of being a sellout and a careerist by other artists and activists.

Due to the shroud of secrecy surrounding his real identity and his subversive character; Banksy has achieved somewhat of a cult following from some of the younger age group within the stencilling community.

In 2004 the Space Hijackers gave out spoof vouchers outside a Banksy exhibition to highlight the artist's ironic use of anti-capitalist and protest imagery while doing work for corporations and art galleries.

Banksy has also self-published several books that contain photos of his work in various countries as well as some of his canvas work and exhibitions, accompanied by his own subversive and often witty writings. His first book, published in black-and-white, is Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall followed by the full colour Existencilism. In 2004 he published his third book, Cut it Out. Random House published Wall and Piece in 2005. It contained a combination of images from his three previous books, as well as some new material.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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