Who is Banksy? A contemporary genius, media provocateur, and guerrilla artist. Who is behind the masterpieces that have been astonishing the whole world for thirty years? Oil paintings on canvas, stencils, installations, sculptures, cartoons, performance art … Anonymous and extremely famous, it is not even certain whether he is just one person or a number of people, just as it was in the ancient past when there was a workshop behind every great artist.
The most likely hypothesis is that his name is Robin Gunningham, based on a Daily Mail investigation and subsequently confirmed in March by an elaborate study carried out by the scientists of Queen Mary University, which used online analysis cross-checked against the geographic profiling of 140 places in which Banksy has left a drawing on a wall. Born on July 28, 1973 in Bristol, he has been a street artist since the late 1980’s, when his mice began to show up on the walls of Great Britain: “If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model”. Since then, there has been a crescendo of works that are increasingly quoted and appreciated. Like when he snuck into the four biggest museums of New York to hang his works, avoiding, however, the Guggenheim “because I wouldn’t have been able to bear the comparison with Picasso”. Or when in 2005 he challenged Israeli soldiers by drawing a gigantic trompe l’oeil in the West Bank desert on the wall that divides Israel from the Palestinian inferno. Or when he left a life-size Guantanamo Bay detainee figure in Disneyland, or drew two English police kissing, or a mother adjusting the mask of an anarchist warrior, or a couple about to kiss while looking at two smartphones …and the list goes on.
“I can’t believe that you morons actually buy this shit”, wrote Banksy after having sold a picture for 750,000 dollars. He is the creator of a new type of vandalism that has been elevated to contemporary art. Once he bought an old painting for 50 dollars that portrayed a bench on the banks of a lake, painted a Nazi sitting on it, and left it in front of a foundation for the poor. It sold at auction in a few hours for 200,000 dollars … Making a ton of money while making fun of the system is possible: it is not a market, this is art, beauty…
All photos courtesy of War, Capitalism & Liberty, Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Rome / warcapitalismandliberty.org
Alessandro Di Giacomo