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Banksy art on Brick Lane, East End of London, 2004
Bristol, England
Known for Street art

Banksy is a street artist, political activist, and film director from England who goes by a pseudonym. His real name and identity remain a mystery. Bansky combines dark humor with graffiti using a stenciling technique. He uses his art to address what he sees as problems within the culture. He paints on larger areas, like streets, walls of public buildings, and bridges.

A Banksy work from the Bristol underground scene


Although his name and identity are not publicly confirmed, he is believed to be Robin Gunningham. In 2008, The Mail on Sunday used clues to make an educated guess of his real identity. Banksy began as an artist at 14, was expelled from school, and served time in prison for petty crime. Since graffiti is illegal, it was important to Bansky that his identity remains a mystery. According to The Sunday Times, Gunningham began using the name Robin Banks, which eventually became Banksy.

In October 2014, an internet hoax spread that Banksy had been arrested and his identity discovered.


Early career (1990–2001)

Bansky started as one of the DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ) in Bristol. He was inspired by local artists, and his work was part of the larger Bristol underground scene. Banksy's first known large-wall mural was The Mild Mild West painted in 1997. It showed a teddy bear throwing a glass bottle filled with flammable liquid and with the wick lit at police.

By 2000, he had begun using a technique called stencil graffiti because it took less time to complete a work. Banksy's stencils show striking images sometimes combined with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment. Subjects often include rats, apes, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.


Banksy held several exhibitions in 2002 and 2003. His first Los Angeles exhibition ran from July 19-August 18, 2022, at 3313 Gallery. The exhibition was entitled Existencilism, "an Exhibition of Art, Lies and Deviousness."

In 2003, he held an exhibition called Turf War exhibition in a London warehouse, in which he painted on animals. An animal rights activist chained herself to the railings to show how much she disagreed with this.

Approximately 1,500 people went to another warehouse exhibition in Alexandria, Sydney. Banksy, along with Shepard Fairey and other artists, created works for the exhibition.

Banksy Hitchhiker to Anywhere Archway 2005
A stencil of Charles Manson in a prison suit, hitchhiking to anywhere, Archway, London


In August 2004, as a prank, Banksy made some British £10 notes. He replaced the picture of the Queen's head with Diana, Princess of Wales's head and changed the text "Bank of England" to "Banksy of England." Making copies of and changing images of the banknotes classifies as a criminal offense (s.18 Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981).

Also in 2004, Bansky recreated an image of the 1972 photograph The Terror of War by Nick Ut called Napalm (Can't Beat That Feeling). In the original photo, a young girl is screaming in a war setting. In Napalm, Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse are standing with the girl and seem not to notice her terror. Banksy made 150 signed and 500 unsigned copies of Napalm.

In August 2005, Banksy, on a trip to the Palestinian territories, created nine graffiti images on the Israeli West Bank wall.

Banksy held an exhibition called Barely Legal in Los Angeles on the weekend of September 16, 2006. The exhibition included the "elephant in a room" - a live elephant painted with pink and gold. It was meant to draw attention to the issue of world poverty.

After Christina Aguilera bought some odd paintings for £25,000 on October 19, 2006, a set of Kate Moss paintings sold in Sotheby's London for £50,400. This began Bansky's popularity among the public. His paintings began selling for large sums of money. In December, journalist Max Foster coined the phrase "the Banksy effect" to explain how interest in other street artists was growing because of Banksy.

On May 21, 2007, Banksy won the award for Art's Greatest living Briton. Banksy did not show up to get his award and continued with his hidden identity.

Banksy says that he did not give permission for the exhibition at the Vanina Holasek Gallery in New York City (his first major exhibition in that city). The exhibition featured sixty-two second-hand paintings and prints.


Banksy Swinger Building Detail
Banksy Swinger in New Orleans
No Loitering Banksy
Work on building in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, August 2008

In March, Nathan Wellard and Maev Neal, a couple from Norfolk, UK, decided to sell their mobile home that a 30-foot mural entitled Fragile Silence on its side. The couple had allowed Bansky to use the side of their home as a canvas. The home had been purchased 11 years earlier for £1,000 and was priced at £500,000.

Stenciled graffiti appeared on Thames Water tower in the middle of the Holland Park roundabout and on the building of an empty gas station in Birmingham, Alabama. These paintings are credited to Banksy.

In late August 2008, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Bansky painted on mostly buildings that were abandoned around New Orleans, Louisiana.

In London, over the weekend of May 3–5, 2008, Banksy hosted an exhibition called The Cans Festival. Graffiti artists with stencils were invited to join in and paint their own artwork, as long as it did not cover anyone else's. Banksy invited artists from around the world to exhibit their works. His first official exhibition in New York City, The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill, opened October 5, 2008.

Various paintings of Bansky were also destroyed or painted over in 2008.


On June 13, 2009, the Bristol Museum vs. Banksy show opened at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, showing more than 100 works of art. It was his largest exhibition yet, featuring seventy-eight new works. Over 8,500 people visited the show on the first weekend. Over twelve weeks, the exhibition was visited over 300,000 times.

A feud and graffiti war between Banksy and King Robbo broke out when Banksy was accused of painting over one of Robbo's works. The feud has led to many of Banksy's works being altered by graffiti writers.

The world premiere of the film Exit Through the Gift Shop occurred at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 24, 2010. He painted graffiti that went with the theme of the film in various cities: Park City, Salt Lake City, San Francisco Chinatown, Detroit, and Warren.

In December, 2011, Bansky unveiled Cardinal Sin at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. In July 2012 before the 2012 Olympic Games, he showed photographs of graffiti with an Olympic theme on his website.


In 2013, one of his murals, Slave Labour was sold, and a new mural went up on his website with the subtitle Better Out Than In.

A pop-up boutique of about 25 spray-art canvases appeared on Fifth Avenue near Central Park on October 12. Tourists were able to buy Banksy's art for $60 each. Two of the canvasses sold at a July 2014 auction for $214,000.

In February 2015, Bansky published a 2-minute video about his trip to Gaza Strip. During his trip, he painted a few works of graffiti and posted them on his website.

Dismaland overview 01-02 combined
Dismaland (2015), a "bemusement park" in Weston-super-Mare

In August 2015, Bansky opened a group show titled Dismaland, a parody modeled after Disneyland. It closed a month later on September 27.


In 2017, Bansky designed some rooms of the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. The hotel was meant to be a temporary exhibit but has remained open to the public.

In 2018, Bansky returned to New York to produce various artwork there. He also had a piece of artwork, Balloon Girl, sell in an auction at Sotheby's in London for £1.04m. As a prank, Bansky had placed a shredder inside the frame and canvas that activated shortly after the woman who won the auction had placed her final bid. Though it was meant to shred the entire picture, only part of the picture was shredded. This brought much attention to the artwork. The woman decided to go through with the purchase and the work was given a new title: Love is in the Bin. Sotheby released a statement that said "Banksy didn't destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one," and called it "the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction." On October 14, 2021, the half-shredded painting was reported to have been sold for $25.4 million.


In October 2019, Devolved Parliament, a 2009 painting by Banksy showing Members of Parliament pictured as chimpanzees in the House of Commons, sold at Sotheby's in London for just under £9.9 million.

On February 13, 2020, the Valentine's Banksy mural appeared on the side of a building in Bristol's Barton Hill neighborhood, showing a young girl firing a slingshot of real red flowers and leaves.

In May 2020, during the global coronavirus pandemic, Bansky donated a painting titled Painting for Saints to the University Hospital of Southampton. The painting was sold and the profits went to National Health Service (NHS)-related organizations and charities.

Banksy created an original artwork for the 2021 BBC One/Amazon Prime Video comedy The Outlaws.


Children of War, Maidan
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), Kyiv

In November 2022, Banksy posted on social media images of a mural on the side of a damaged building in the town of Borodianka, Ukraine. He also created six graffiti murals in Kiev, Irpin, Hostomel, and Horenka.

Notable works

Some of Banksy's works include:

  • The Mild Mild West (1997)
  • Smiley Copper H (2002)
  • Leopard and Barcode (2002)
  • Bomb Hugger (2002)
  • Love is in the Air (2002)
  • Untitled (2004)
  • Ballerina with Action Man Parts (2007)
  • Glory (2007)
  • Space Girl and Bird (2007)
  • Follow Your Dreams (2010)
  • The Son of a Migrant from Syria, (2015)
  • Season's Greetings (2018)

Other notable artworks

Banksy has claimed responsibility for several high-profile artworks, including the following:

  • At London Zoo, he climbed into the penguin enclosure and painted "We're bored of fish" in 7-foot-high (2.1 m) letters.
  • At London Zoo, he left the message "I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring." in the elephant enclosure.
  • In 2004, he placed the piece Banksus Militus Ratus into London's Natural History Museum.
  • In March 2005, he placed artworks in the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan as well as the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn.
  • In May 2005, Banksy's version of a primitive cave painting showing a human figure hunting wildlife while pushing a shopping cart was hung in gallery 49 of the British Museum, London.
  • In August 2005, Banksy painted nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.
  • In October 2005, Banksy designed six station IDs for Nickelodeon.
  • In April 2006, Banksy created a sculpture based on a crumpled red phone box with a pickaxe in its side, apparently bleeding, and placed it in a side street in Soho, London. It was later removed by Westminster Council.
  • In August/September 2006, Banksy placed up to 500 copies of Paris Hilton's debut CD, Paris, in 48 different UK record stores with his cover art and remixes by Danger Mouse.
  • In September 2006, Banksy dressed an inflatable doll to look like a Guantanamo Bay detainment camp prisoner (orange jumpsuit, black hood, and handcuffs) and then placed the figure within the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.
  • He was responsible for the cover art of Blur's 2003 album Think Tank.
  • In September 2007, Banksy covered a wall in Portobello Road with a French artist painting graffiti of Banksy's name.
  • A guard/police officer with a balloon animal was painted in the Canadian city of Toronto in 2010 and has since been removed from its original location and preserved.
  • In March 2010, a modified version of the work Forgive Us Our Trespassing–a kneeling boy with a spray-painted halo–was displayed at London Bridge Station on a poster.
  • In July 2011, one of Banksy's early works, Gorilla in a Pink Mask, was unwittingly painted over after the premises became a Muslim cultural center.
  • In July 2012, in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic games he created several pieces based upon this event. One included an image of an athlete throwing a missile instead of a javelin, taking a poke at the surface to air missile sites positioned in the Stratford area to defend the games.
  • In April 2014, he created a piece in Cheltenham, near the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) headquarters, which pictures three men wearing sunglasses and using listening devices to "snoop" on a telephone box. The piece was meant to criticize the recent Global surveillance disclosures of 2013.
  • In June 2016, a 14 ft painting of a child with a stick chasing a burning tire was found in the Bridge Farm Primary School in Bristol with a letter from Banksy thanking the school for naming one of its houses after him.
  • In May 2017, Banksy claimed the authorship of a giant Brexit mural, painted on a house in Dover (Kent).
  • Banksy's Dream Boat, originally made for the Dismaland exhibition, was donated to the NGO Help Refugees (now called Choose Love) to help raise funds for the charity. The artwork was displayed in Help Refugees' London Choose Love pop-up shop in the run-up to Christmas 2018, and members of the public could pay £2.00 to enter a competition to guess the weight of the piece. The person with the closest guess would win Dream Boat. The 'guess-the-weight' competition was seen as 'deliberately school fair' in style.
  • In March 2021, the image of an escaping prisoner appeared overnight on the side of Reading Prison.
  • In August 2021, several Banksy artworks, collectively titled A Great British Spraycation, appeared in several East Anglian towns.


Banksy Girl ATM
ATM attacking a girl, Rosebery Avenue, London, January 2008

Because Banksy still hides his identity, it is uncertain what techniques he uses to make the images in the stencils. Some think he uses computers for images. In his book Wall and Piece, he says that he was usually caught or could not finish art in one sitting in his early career. He said that he was inspired to use stencils while hiding from police because painting graffiti is illegal.

Some critics claim Banksy was influenced by musician and graffiti artist 3D. Another source says the artist's work is similar to the work of French graffiti artist Blek le Rat.

Political and social themes

Banksy's works have dealt with different political and social themes, including anti-war, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, nihilism, and existentialism. He also uses his art to criticize greed, poverty, hypocrisy, boredom, depression, absurdity, and alienation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Banksy said that he took medical advice to self-isolate. During this time he created an artwork in his bathroom.

Philanthropy and activism

Banksy has donated several of his works to promote various causes like, supporting the Palestinians, working to stop the trading of weapons, helping refugees, supporting homeless charities, and helping the National Health Service.


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

  • Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall (2001) ISBN: 978-0-9541704-0-0
  • Existencilism (2002) ISBN: 978-0-9541704-1-7
  • Cut It Out (2004) ISBN: 978-0-9544960-0-5
  • Pictures of Walls (2005) ISBN: 978-0-9551946-0-3
  • Wall and Piece (2007) ISBN: 978-1-84413-786-2

Interesting facts about Bansky

  • When he started, his work was mainly done freehand. He began using stencils for his work in the late 1990s.
  • He was first interviewed in 2003.
  • In 2004, he printed spoof £10 notes. The Queen was replaced by Princess Diana’s face and instead of “Bank of England,” the note read “Banksy of England.” This was against the law (s.18 Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981).
  • He paid an odd tribute to Monet’s Water Lilies by adding an old shopping cart and garbage to the painting.
  • In 2010, Banksy was named alongside Barack Obama and Steve Jobs as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people. He had to offer a photograph and sent in an image of himself wearing a paper bag over his head.

Bansky quotes

  • "A wall is a very big weapon. It's one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with."
  • "Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a ... sharp knife to it."
  • "I just want to make the world a better looking place. If you don't like it, you can paint over it!"
  • "When you go to an art gallery, you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires."
  • "This is the first show I’ve ever done where taxpayers’ money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off." (referring to the Bristol Museum vs. Banksy show)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Banksy para niños

  • List of urban artists
  • Street installation
  • Brandalism
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