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Bristol, United Kingdom

The Graffiti Week artists we have featured to date are giants in their chosen domain. Today’s feature is arguably the tallest among them. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the most recognizable street artist working today is an elusive Brit that goes by the name Bansky. Little is known about the artist, but his predominately stencil-based style has become recognizable around the world.  Banksy’s work often contains satirical social commentary that hits close to home. This approachability of his work, combined with his penchant for high concept/high profile stunts, has catapulted the artist to international stardom. All the while, Banksy has managed to maintain his anonymity. Even directing the mockumentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), and appearing on screen wasn’t enough to reveal the mystery. Here’s what we do know, or at least what the consensus agrees is accurate:

1. Banksy was born in Yate, South Gloucestershire, near Bristol in approximately 1974.

2. He started his career as a freehand graffiti artist in the early 1990s, but he wasn’t very good.

3. He was often busted, interrupted, or couldn’t complete his work, so he started to experiment with stencils… and so it began.

Stencils offer street artist’s the ability to conceptualize and develop a plan of action before they arrive on the scene. Production time is front-loaded and the implementation takes less time than freehand graffiti. Banksy capitalized on this aspect of stenciling and turned almost exclusively to the medium in the early 2000s. Stencils afforded Banksy the opportunity to develop poignant social statements.  Utilizing stencils also made Banksy’s work quicker to implement and he was able to increase the prominence and visibility of this art. This new found visibility and growing millennial angst generated exponential growth in Banksy’s popularity and notoriety.

In recent years, Banksy popularity has exploded.  His artwork has been auctioned at Sotheby’s.  He has exhibited his work at the Tate Britain, British Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, et al. He has directed a critically acclaimed documentary. Perhaps the most interesting and the most ironic; earlier this year city employees in Melbourne were chastised for accidentally painting over one of Banksy’s pieces. This prompted a city-wide effort to protect the remainder of his work. In other municipalities, Banksy’s work has been covered with plexiglass to protect it from vandalism and theft. In fact, whole walls of buildings have been sold to obtain his work.

Banksy has obtained a level of success that few artists and designers get to enjoy in their lifetime.  His popularity has made it a breeze to find images and reviews of his work online and we highly suggest that you check out his work; especially if this is the first time that you’ve heard his name mentioned.  Banksy maintains a website and has authored several books that provide insight into his craft. You can also find Banksy pages on Twitter and Facebook.

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