First and foremost, this morning my husband showed me a tweet that was a bitcoin joke. I got it and legitimately laughed. Counting that as a huge win in this conversationalist journey. On the other hand, while having dinner with my book club last night, the conversation turned to literature, which is actually somewhat surprising for us. As we selected books for the next three months, a number of popular fiction authors were proposed. While I listened to them discuss books I had never heard of, I made a mental note to start tackling the arts. Today, however, I have struggled to try to figure out how to start filling such a wide and gaping hole of knowledge.
As luck would have it, Banksy tossed me a softball by being topical this week and giving me a chance to catch up on what, it seems, most of you all learned about either in the late 90s or in 2010 via Exit Through the Gift Shop. Here's how I got to Banksy: I am intrigued by street art, which appears to be more than a genre at this point - a movement, perhaps? I don't know much about contemporary art (yet), but street art seems to be an essential piece of modern art and as good a place to start as any. My expertly crafted google search, "most important street artists," led me to Banksy as the top hit. Interestingly, the first articles for Banksy all came from major news outlets (CNN, NBC News, BBC) in the last twelve hours. So, clear and solid hit on Banksy for today's post.
My quick background on Banksy. Much like last week's Satoshi Nakamoto (note and applaud the relevant reference), Banksy's true identity is unknown. An English artist, activist, and director, it is believed that he was born in Bristol in 1974. There is much speculation around his actual identity, the most popular theory being Robin Gunningham, who was born in Bristol in 1973 and moved to London around 2000.
Banksy gained notoriety in the 90s through his stenciled graffiti in Bristol and in London. He became an international phenomenon in 2005, when he traveled to Palestine and did 9 iconic paintings on the West Bank Wall, which divides Israel and Palestine. You can see all 9 images here and my favorite one below.
Around the same time frame, Banksy started selling prints and paintings at auctions. In 2008, Keep It Spotless sold for $1.87 million and Simple Intelligence Testing Sold for $1.26 million. Click here for a full list of his most expensive paintings during this period, while noting that Banksy has lamented that "commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist."
Banksy really became a household name in 2010, when he directed Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary on Thierry Guetta, a street artist in Los Angeles. The documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for the best documentary. Following his successful break for filmmaking, Banksy had a flurry of projects around the globe - New York, the UK, Gaza, Bethlehem. But now to why he is trending at the moment.
Last week Banksy made his first appearance in Paris. Over the last few days, at least 8 Banksy-style paintings have appeared in Paris, focused on the theme of refugees. (You can see them all here). While Banksy, always anonymous, has not taken credit for the paintings, they are stencils in his style, some include rats - a trademark of his, oh, and, he posted a bunch of them on his Instagram account (follow @Banksy if you are not already). While these have been appearing across Paris the last few days, at least one has already been colored over a bit, one of the startling inevitabilities of street art, I guess. The images are powerful and provocative statements about the migrant crisis in Europe and showcase Banksy's ability to create profound political statements. Among them, there is a young black girl painting over a swastika and a man, holding a saw in one hand and offering a three-legged dog a bone with the other.
If you are in Paris right now, track the locations of the above paintings, visit them all, and keep your fingers crossed that more appear in the coming days. For those of us not so lucky, there are a number of resources to guide you to Banksy art that you can view. I like Canvas Art Rock's, 127 Amazing Banksy Graffiti Artworks with Locations (2018 Updates) the best. In the spirit of the blog, would love to hear from anyone that has seen Banksy's work in the flesh - where? what? how was the experience? My follow up work: watching Exit Through the Gift Shop and keeping an eye on Banksy's Instagram for additional posts about new pieces. While my arts knowledge gap is wide and daunting, today's study was a good, if not somewhat random, step towards filling the hole. Onward.