The Brand Called Banksy
Updated: Apr 2
Only a handful of people know what Banksy looks like, yet his art sells for millions of pounds. The anonymous artist made headlines a couple of years ago, for shredding his own artwork at a Sotheby’s auction. The painting titled Girl With Balloon had just sold for a whopping £ 1.04 million, when the art spontaneously started to shred itself. Halfway through, the process stopped - leaving the painting half intact and half in tassels.
The artist later revealed on Instagram that he had built the shredder into the frame in case the piece ever went on auction. But here’s the surprising bit: the patron who bought the painting couldn’t be happier, and the shredding has actually increased the value of the piece. Dubbed the first artwork to be created during the auction, Girl With Balloon, now called Love Is In The Bin, is estimated to be worth £ 2 million!
Banksy’s art and influence has achieved global recognition. The UK-born artist has several pieces of art displayed on walls in New York, LA and other cities around the world. It is a common belief that every city has someone influenced by the enigmatic artist. Closer to home, Mumbai street artist Tyler and Kochi’s Guesswho, both claim to have been inspired by Banksy.
Why is Banksy famous?
Banksy has been around since the 1990s and is famed for his street art which centres around the theme of social injustice. Having emerged from the Bristol underground scene, Banksy uses his art to voice his political activism. If the painting carries a distinct tone of satire or dark humour, then there’s a high possibility that it’s a Banksy. His signature stencilling technique has helped make his art more recognisable.
However, people don’t have to guess for very long as the artist takes credit for his work via Instagram within a day or two of completing it. In December 2019, Banksy painted a familiar winter scene on the side of a wall in Port Talbot, Whales. The painting showed a child, bundled up for winter, catching snowflakes on his tongue. However, just around the corner, on the adjacent wall, the full story came to light; those were not snowflakes, but ash from a dumpster fire…
Captured in Banksy’s stencil technique, the wall mural was to protest the poor quality of air in Port Talbot. A large steelworks plant in the area increased air pollution considerably. Particulate matter was posing a real health concern. Banksy revealed on Instagram that a concerned resident had messaged him with a request to highlight the problem. He promptly did, in true Banksy style.
What did he get right?
For a vandal who needs to stay anonymous for fear of being arrested, Banksy has quite the fan following. How did he reach this level of fame without revealing his true identity to the world?
Here’s what we know:
He picks his battles well: Banksy’s art is all about standing up for the underdog. He has showcased homelessness, the evils of modern society, humanity’s departure from its roots, homosexuality, loss, and much more. These are topics that everyday people identify and connect with. To have someone champion causes that many are not willing to speak about makes Banksy a hero in the eyes of the public.
He goes all out: Banksy does nothing in small measure. His art is big, it’s loud, and it has just the right amount of colour. His Valentine’s Day mural in Bristol was mostly black and white save for a big splash of red flowers.
His talent is exceptional: No amount of going big and loud would work if there was no talent to support the art. Banksy of course, brings it in spades. His stunning imagery captures every detail from facial expressions to folds in clothes. The art is realistic and often with a three-dimensional quality even when painted on a flat surface. Banksy is also a master of creativity which is evident from the style of his art.
His message is simple: There is no big play on words and no riddles in Banksy’s artwork. He keeps his messages as short and simple as possible so that everybody gets it at a glance. The simplicity of his technique has a mass appeal that viewers young and old can appreciate. His painting of a protester throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of a grenade speaks volumes without using words; use kindness instead of violence.
Everything about Banksy makes him a brand that sells. From the enigma that he remains, to his sheer talent, he has got people talking. Every time a new piece of graffiti or wall art surfaces, people are quick to wonder if it’s a Banksy. The artist has things to say and he says them through his art. The world is quite literally his canvas, and he’s making the best use of it possible.