Banksy, Grin Reaper, 2005, Signed, Archival print on paper, Edition 300, 28" x 17" Sheet Size,
Banksy is an English-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director whose real identity is unknown. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique. His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. The media and his supporters have always questioned Banksy's identity due to a variety of identity claims. Most recently, many popular theories, including an entire newspaper publication, pointed his identity at being a Bristol native by the name of Robin Gunninham. If this is theory holds true, it will allow even greater insight into the artistic world Banksy inhibits. What is even more interesting is that he has managed to completely conceal his identity from his family. To this date, no Banksy identity claim has ever been definitive. Banksy's work grew out of the Bristol underground scene, which involved collaborations between artists and musicians. He was trying out names at the time, sometimes signing himself Robin Banx, although this soon evolved into Banksy. The shortened moniker may have demonstrated less of the gangsters' "robbing banks" cachet, but it was more memorable‚Äîand easier to write on a wall. Around this time, he also settled on his distinctive stencil approach to graffiti. Stencils are often in the form of multi-layered stencils and/or combined with other media sources, such as spray-paint. He also includes anything found in the streets like street signs and other objects to convey his message by crafting beautiful street art installations. His artwork is often satirical and combines dark humor with graffiti and also spread messages across art, philosophy, and politics. Observers have noted that his style is similar to Blek le Rat, who began to work with stencils in 1981 in Paris. Banksy says that he was inspired by "3D", a graffiti artist who later became a founding member of Massive Attack, an English musical group. He told his friend, author Tristan Manco: "As soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They've been used to start revolutions and to stop wars." By the early 2000s, Banksy relocated to London, where he began to gain notoriety and even worked on a series of international exhibits. He traveled to Palestine and the West Bank, where he stenciled nine images on the Bethlehem Wall. In July 2003, Banksy mounted "Turf War," his breakthrough exhibition. Staged in a former warehouse in Hackney, the show dazzled the London art scene with its carnival-atmosphere display, which featured a live heifer, its hide embellished with a portrait of Andy Warhol, as well as Queen Elizabeth II in the guise of a chimpanzee. Today, he has "bombed" cities from Vienna to San Francisco, Barcelona to Paris and Detroit. And he has moved from graffiti on gritty urban walls to paint on canvas, conceptual sculpture and even film, with the guileful documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film was billed as "the world's first street art disaster movie", made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.The film was released in the UK on 5 March 2010. In January 2011, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film. In 20214, he was awarded Person of the Year at the 2014 Webby Awards.