The ‘Art’ Hero
If you watched Gully Boy recently and marvelled over the rendezvous led by Kalki’s character to paint the town every shade of rebellious, you probably want to know about Banksy.
One of the best kept secrets of the art world, Banksy is a mysterious graffiti artist who took the world by storm, with rats, stencils, chimps, and narratives of Israeli occupation and capitalism among several others. His works sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he now runs one of the most incredible creations in the world- The Walled Off Hotel in Palestine, where every wall of every room is art, and a guest lives and breathes in an experience beyond compare.
“If you want to say something and have people listen, then you have to wear a mask.”
In today’s world where nobody and nothing is hidden from people, Banksy’s identity somehow has continued to be. His journey started all the way back in 1992 as a teenage masked vandalist, who spray painted illegally over walls across Bristol, and today his net worth stands at over $50 billion.
Born and raised in Bristol, Banksy was expelled from school as a 14 year old and served some jail time for petty crime before he entered the underground art scene at Bristol, and started creating large wall murals like ‘The Mild Mild West’. From the very beginning, his work was political, satirical, anti-establishment and coated with dark humour. In the early 2000s he had an agent, had shifted base to London, and had started dabbling in exhibitions and sales of his works, albeit in the most unique manner possible. Here are some examples of the kind of projects this insanely talented man has pulled off:
1) Banksy created one million pounds of DiFace money- as fake £10 notes, by replacing the Queen of England’s head with that of Diana, Princess of Wales, and having changed the text ‘Bank of England’ to ‘Banksy of England’. These ended up in use at a carnival and a festival, and later every individual note was selling for £200 each on ebay.
2) He loved to attack the idea of Disneyland. He once placed a life-size inflatable dummy of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner inside Disneyland, effectively shutting the place down before fleeing successfully, and one of his most ambitious ventures as an artist was an entire park of art, satire, dark humour and stark reality, titled Dismaland.
3) His work ‘Consumerist Jesus’ shows Jesus on the cross holding shopping bags with gifts- a satirical take on how consumerist people become around holidays such as Christmas.
4) Banksy had a big surprise (quite literally) in store for people visiting his ‘Barely Legal’ exhibition- there was a painted elephant in the warehouse this was being held at. He wanted people to see the literal elephant in the room, painted exactly like walls, to talk about how people wilfully ignore world hunger and global poverty.
5) This was perhaps the most daring provocation Banksy has indulged in- he managed to do 9 massive illustrations on the heavily guarded West Bank wall, separating Israel and Palestine! Of course they are extremely anti-war to say the least, and some say that he had guns pointed at him almost the entire time.
6) He couldn’t hold off on making a statement about the environment either. He recreated Monet’s famous water lily paintings by adding floating garbage, miscellaneous debris and shopping carts. Furthermore, he wrote a few choice words- “I don’t believe in global warming” on the half submerged wall by a canal, which will be completely submerged as the effects of climate change begin to show themselves.
This list doesn’t come close to covering the extensive art of the elusive provocateur. One of his paintings shredded itself spontaneously, later being known as The Shredded Painting, and people at the gallery labelled this phenomenon as having gotten ‘Banksy-ed’.
Banksy isn’t just an artist, a filmmaker, a vandalist, an entrepreneur- he is the unmaking of an institution. In times like today when surveillance is abound and people are arrested at the slightest provocation, Banksy is a hero, for continuously and spiritedly telling the truth, and getting a few laughs out of people and at them- truly making him the greatest real artist of our times.