Bristol-born graffiti artist Banksy is famous around the world for his political and satirical street art. His actual identity is one of the best-kept secrets in art, instead preferring to work guerrilla-style via his iconic pseudonym. However, we’ve managed to track down a few must-know Banksy facts.
You can’t visit Bristol without tracking down some of Banksy’s legendary street art.
Born out of Bristol
It’s believed that Banksy’s career first started in the early 90s, working as a freehand graffiti artist as part of the Bristol underground scene. His first known wall mural The Mild, Mild West, depicted a teddy bear holding a Molotov cocktail, and was painted in 1997 on a former solicitors’ office on Stokes Croft. Since then, his work has appeared on walls and buildings in major cities such as London, Paris, LA and New York, as well as everywhere in his hometown of Bristol.
The sweet 16
Banksy fans often make the pilgrimage to Bristol to see the artist’s original inspiration and visit some of his most renowned works. There are currently 16 pieces in Bristol that have been linked to Banksy over the years. You can take a Bristol walking tour and follow in his footsteps to see both the highly publicised works and his lesser-known stencils. There’s the Grim Reaper in Bristol’s M Shed, Well Hung Lover on Frogmore Street, Paint Pot Angel in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Masked Gorilla on Fishponds Road and the original Mild, Mild West opposite the Jamaica Street Junction. One of the great things about Banksy is that you never know where his work will pop up next, so one of the best ways to see Bristol’s celebrated street art is just by wandering around!
The Banksy Effect
Banksy isn’t the only street artist to hail from Bristol. There are plenty of other local artists working in and around the area – you can’t help but spot their work everywhere you go. Keep an eye out for a breakdancing Jesus by Cosmo Sarson, Burning Candy Crew’s work on Gloucester Road, a beer garden disguised as a farm in St Werburghs, Silent Hobo’s graphic graffiti in Little Bishop Street, a Stokes Croft hostel transformed into an astronomical wonder, and a giant pink flamingo on the side of the Kings Arms pub.
Despite it being spray-painted on walls, buildings and bridges, Banksy’s work can fetch millions of pounds. The most expensive Banksy piece was Keep It Spotless, a mural of a maid sweeping dirt under a brick wall, selling for a record $1.8 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2008. A 2016 auction is set to take place in West Hollywood at the end of April, with several of Banksy’s artworks going under the hammer. His 2002 Happy Choppers is expected to sell for $150,000 and Boy Painting Pink Heart is expected to go up to $120,000.
But the question remains…
Just who is Banksy? There has been much speculation about who the anonymous artist really is, but it’s widely thought to be Bristolian Robin Gunningham, a rumour that he refuses to confirm. In 2014, a widespread online hoax said that Banksy had been arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police and held on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting. He was allegedly unmasked to be Liverpool artist Paul Homer. However, Banksy’s agent quickly disputed the claim and it was revealed to all as an elaborate prank. The hunt for the elusive Banksy is still on… Do you know who it could be? Get yourself to Bristol to find out!