Banksy started out as a freehand graffiti artist in the early 1990s. During his early years he worked as a part of Bristol's DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ), with Kato and Tes, and his art was part of the larger Bristol underground scene. He drew inspiration from some of the local street artists such as Nick Walker, Inkie and 3D.
Initially his work was primarily freehand though he used to stencil on occasion. Over a period of time he began using stencils predominantly as he felt that stenciling gave him more artistic freedom.
Marked by bold images with hard-hitting underlying messages and witty slogans, his art soon gained popularity in the Bristol area and in London. With growing popularity he developed his own signature style that distinguished him from other street artists of the Bristol underground scene.
He painted his first known large wall mural, ‘The Mild Mild West’ to cover advertising of a former solicitors' office on Stokes Croft in Bristol in 1997. The mural shows a teddy bear lobbing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.
He received much publicity during the 2000s because of the bold nature of his work, characterized by striking images, witty slogans, and underlying social and political commentary. Once considered a vandal for defacing publically visible surfaces on walls, streets, and bridges, he gained new recognition as a popular street artist.
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Rise to Prominence
In 2002, Banksy’s fist Los Angeles exhibition, ‘Existencilism’ was held at 331⁄3 Gallery, a tiny Silver Lake venue owned by Frank Sosa. The exhibition was curated by 331⁄3 Gallery, Malathion LA's Chris Vargas, Funk Lazy Promotions' Grace Jehan, and B+.
He staged the exhibition ‘Turf War’ in a London warehouse in 2003 where he painted on animals. He embellished the hide of a heifer with a portrait of Andy Warhol, as well as Queen Elizabeth II in the guise of a chimpanzee. The same year, he gave an interview to BBC's Nigel Wrench, talking about his art.
He gained much fame when in 2004 he produced a quantity of spoof British £10 notes substituting the picture of the Queen's head with Diana, Princess of Wales's head and changing the text "Bank of England" to "Banksy of England". One of these notes was sold, in October 2007, at Bonhams auction house in London for £24,000.
In 2006, Banksy held an exhibition called Barely Legal, billed as a "three-day vandalised warehouse extravaganza" in Los Angeles. The exhibition featured a live elephant painted in a pink and gold floral wallpaper pattern, intended to draw attention to the issue of world poverty.
During the 2000s Banksy’s popularity skyrocketed and people flocked to buy his artworks at the auctions. His ‘Bombing Middle England’ fetched over £102,000 at Sotheby's auction house while two of his other graffiti works, ‘Balloon Girl’ and ‘Bomb Hugger’, sold for £37,200 and £31,200 respectively.
Banksy marked the end of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference by painting four murals on global warming. The most memorable of these included the phrase, "I don't believe in global warming;" the words submerged in water.
In 2010 he directed a film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film’ which tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on 24 January 2010 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
He exhibited the art work "Cardinal Sin" at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 2011. It featured a bust which replaces a priest's face with a "pixelated" effect, meant as a criticism of the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
In 2013, he undertook a residency ‘Better Out Than In’ during which he unveiled at least one work of art daily throughout the month of October. The art works displayed were primarily stencil graffiti with political undertones marked by his characteristic dark humor and satire. The show received mixed reviews from critics but was a huge hit among his fans.
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Banksy opened Dismaland, a large scale group show lampooning Disneyland in August 2015. Artists Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer were also part of the project which Banksy described as a "family theme park unsuitable for children”. Banksy created ten new works for the project and funded the construction of the exhibition himself.
In 2017, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the British control of Palestine, Banksy financed the creation of the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. The rooms of the hotel are designed by Banksy, Sami Musa and Dominique Petrin. Each of the bedrooms of the hotel face the wa
In October 2018, Banksy's Banksy's work, 'Balloon Girl', was sold in an auction at Sotheby's in London for £1.04m. It is a series of stencil murals bdepicting a young girl with her hand extended toward a red heart-shaped balloon carried away by the wind. However, shortly after it was auctioned the picture was partially shredded in a prank by Banksy.
In October 2018, Banksy's Banksy's work, 'Balloon Girl', was sold in an auction at Sotheby's in London for £1.04m. It is a series of stencil murals bdepicting a young girl with her hand extended toward a red heart-shaped balloon carried away by the wind. However, shortly after it was auctioned the picture was partially shredded in a prank by Banksy. The partially shredded work retitled as 'Love is in the Bin'.