Banksy the Existencilist

Banksy is an English-based street artist, political activist, and film director whose real name and identity remain unconfirmed and the subject of much speculation. His pieces are found on walls and streets in many cities around the world.

Banksy became an artist at the age of 14, after he was expelled from school, and served time in prison for petty crime. Living in Easton, Bristol, he started as a freehand graffiti artist in 1990–1994, as one of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ), with two other artists known as Kato and Tes. Banksy says that he was inspired by local artists and his work was part of the larger Bristol underground scene with Nick Walker, Inkie and 3D, a graffiti artist and founding member of the musical group Massive Attack.

By 2000, Banksy moved to London and turned to stencilling after realising it takes much less time to complete a piece. He claims his ‘eureka moment’ came while hiding from the police under a rubbish lorry, when he noticed its stencilled serial number. Banksy’s stencils feature striking satirical images and are occasionally combined with slogans. The messages often show anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment themes. His subjects often include rats, apes, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.

  • Banksy is commonly believed to be Robin Gunningham, first identified by The Mail on Sunday in 2008. Gunningham was born on 28 July 1973, in Yate, 19 km from Bristol. Several of Gunningham’s associates and former schoolmates at Bristol Cathedral School have corroborated this, and in 2016; a study by researchers using geographic profiling tools at the Queen Mary University of London found that the incidence of Banksy’s works correlated with the known movements of Gunningham.
  • According to The Sunday Times, Gunningham began employing the name Robin Banks, which eventually became Banksy.
  • In June 2017, DJ Goldie referred to Banksy as “Rob”.
  • In October 2014, an internet hoax circulated that Banksy had been arrested and his identity revealed.

Banksy has published several books that contain photographs of his work accompanied by his own writings:

  • Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall (2001)
  • Existencilism (2002)
  • Cut It Out (2004)
  • Pictures of Walls (2005)
  • Wall and Piece (2007)

Banksy | Robin? | Rob? | Whatever!

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