There are few contemporary artists who have had such crossover appeal as Banksy. Whatever your level of art knowledge, he’s someone you’ve heard of. Which is rather ironic considering his true identity is still unknown and subject to much speculation.
Banksy’s career began in the 1990s as part of Bristol’s underground graffiti scene. His satirical and politically motivated stencils quickly gained notoriety, and the mystery surrounding who created them added further fuel to the fire. In the early 2000s, after a string of exhibitions and publicity stunts – such as throwing spoof £10 notes into a crowd of revellers at the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival – Banksy’s status was sharply elevated from nuisance (albeit popular) street artist to a prolific and highly bankable one. It’s an impressive feat considering the medium of street art has long been derided by the artistic elite.
Throughout the course of his prolific career, Banksy has expanded into grander, more ambitious projects, such as the Exit Through the Gift Shop documentary he directed in 2010, and the Disney satire installation Dismaland he erected in Weston-super-Mare in 2015. Banksy also continues to pull stunts and push the boundaries of contemporary art. Most recently, in a headline-grabbing piece of performance art in 2021, when one of his paintings – Love is in the Bin – was dropped through a covert shredder moments after being sold at Sotheby’s for a record-breaking £18.5m. Was it a thought-provoking comment on the “value” of art? Or was it simply a viral-worthy prank that, admittedly, looked very cool. The beauty of Banksy is that you never quite know the truth.
This September, Londoners have the chance to get up close and personal with some of Banksy’s most recognisable masterpieces, as well as some lesser-known gems, at a special exhibition at Red Eight Gallery. Old favourites on display include Girl With Balloon and Happy Choppers, with many artworks up for sale, ranging from £25,000 to an eye-watering £2.5m. Red Eight Gallery recently expanded to a neighbouring plot at The Royal Exchange, and pulled out all the stops by putting its most famous representative front and centre.
Banking on Banksy runs from 26 August-16 September 2022. Discover more by visiting Red Eight Gallery at The Royal Exchange