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You know when you were at school and it was cool to scratch your name into the desk, doodle in the margins of your 1B5 and draw all over your hands? Some cool kids bring this habit with them to university lecture theatres; Banksy’s innocent doodles at his Bristol high school were his gateway into the graffiti world.
Like any vaguely capable pirate, the real identity of this edgy street artist and his background are veiled in mystery, because, when you’re running around the world committing illegal acts it’s kinda important that you get through border patrol.
Banksy is anti a lot of things—anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment. His humour is dark and his social commentary startlingly on point. The intelligence and craft that Banksy throws into his work puts to shame the dogs who piss their tags onto council water meters. He has gained an international reputation and helped raise the status of the graffiti artist—something we still can’t quite wrap our heads around when the medium of graffiti is generally considered dirty and painted over. (FYI, anyone painting over a Banksy work would be regretting that now—one of his latest works, Mobile Lovers, sold for over £400,000.)
Last month Banksy was in Gaza painting kittens on rubble, because the internet is more obsessed with watching fluff balls than learning about the destruction happening in the Middle East. Before the last Olympics, he was depicting athletes throwing missiles instead of javelins. For a whole month he set up art installations in public spaces in New York City, which included selling authentic art for US$60 to people who had no idea and were later able to sell the pieces for over US$200,000.
It is a small irony that celebrities and others have paid a shit tonne for Banksy’s work, when he is so anti-capitalist and critical of consumer culture. His work is interesting and worth noting because of its accessibility outside of the gallery space, and because it causes us to question the legality of his means of making artistic comment.