If you don’t know who Banksy is, you can join the club. Verification of his identity has not yet occurred, although there are photos which are supposed to be him, and conjectures about who he is.
Despite his anonymity, he is rapidly becoming one of the most famous artists in the world.
He leaves his art on buildings and no one seems to notice him doing it. Sometimes the city removes the art. Other times these works get sold even though Banksy does not seem to approve of people selling his work that was not created to be sold.
His work is technically simple, much of it created with just stencils and spray paint. Which might leave us to ask how in the hell a truly unknown artist became such a phenomenon.
Who hasn’t gone to go see a bar band and thought to themselves, wtf, this music is ten times better than the crap that gets played over and over on the radio, or seen art at a coffee shop that was as good or superior to work that sells in galleries for tens of thousands dollars.
As a writer whose reviewers often state that my book is the best they have read in years and that Edge Play X is better than the mega selling 50 Shades of Gray, but who still struggles to pay my bills, I appreciate the statement he makes about art, and success in art, not just in his work, but in his life.
He became successful outside of the machinery that creates success, machinery that leaves most of us behind.
Let’s face it, anyone who is able to think knows that fame in art is not always about quality or skill. Too often, success is based on marketing and convincing the public or anyone who buys that this song or art work is valuable.
Banksy rejects the pretentious art world. He understands its nature, that it is an illusion created by those with a monetary stake in the system, the power to control what is seen and heard, and the pretension to think they know better.
He lives anonymously, not going openly to art shows. I like to think that sometimes he attends them in disguise just to see how people react. He doesn’t seek to prop up his ego. He is the anti-Picasso.
He criticizes the art establishment. He is quoted as saying, “The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires…
Banksy is a ghost. His stand is against the consumer culture and the effect that is has on our psyches and our humanity. Banksy does not ask for permission because the companies do not ask for permission when they shove their advertising down our throats and into our heads. He leaves his work wherever he wants, work that forces us to question our culture, our rules, and the established way of doing things.
This is graffiti, right? Real art doesn’t appear on buildings for free. Isn’t the place for art in a gallery where rich assholes can buy it as an investment, convincing themselves that they understand the artistic statement? Aren’t famous artists ego maniacs? Who the fuck is this guy? He is an idea, a spirit. His statements transcend his identity. He has found a way to make statements without an identity, and without having to sell his identity.
It isn’t to say that artists don’t deserve to earn money from their work. But is the primary purpose of art to make money? Does art need to be pigeon-holed to specific areas? Why is it wrong for an artist to make us look at their work when we are forced to look at advertisements?
Artists become famous not just for their work, but also for how they live their lives. He lives outside of the system. He creates for all. Banksy is subversive and the nature of meaningful art is subversive.
Thank you, Banksy.