The first in-depth biography of the ‘Urban’ artist Banksy by a former Times correspondent has been published this week. Banksy is perhaps the best known of the new breed of Street Artist. His pieces have fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars at many of the world’s most prestigious auction houses. He was even nominated for an Academy Award for his film Exit Through the Gift Shop a documentary on the humorous and often madcap rival, Mr Brainwash. Once viewed as vandalism, his work is now venerated; Thieves have often gone as far as to dismantle the walls that he has painted on, trying to sell them for thousands of dollars.
But for as famous as Banksy is, he remains a shadowy figure unknown to the public and media. His identity remains a mystery and he never shows his face in public, never gives interviews except by email. Who is this man? And how has someone who goes to such great lengths to keep himself hidden achieved such great notoriety?
Now, in the first ever full-scale treatment of the artist, reporter Will Ellsworth-Jones pieces together the story of Banksy, building up a picture of the man and the world in which he operates. He talks to his friends and enemies, those who knew him in his early, unnoticed days, and those who have watched him try to come to terms with his newfound fame and success.
Stunningly presented and uniquely packaged, Banksy offers an eye-opening glimpse of an enigmatic figure and a riveting account of how a graffiti artist from Bristol became an international icon—and along the way turned the art world upside down.
WILL ELLSWORTH-JONES was chief reporter and New York correspondent for the Sunday Times. He has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the San Francisco Examiner, and The Anniston Star. His last book, We Will Not Fight, was a history of conscientious objectors in the First World War. He lives in London. “A credible and intelligent portrait of a unique artist, reluctant capitalist and control freak struggling to preserve his own myth and maintain his outsider status.” —The Independent (UK) “A fascinating portrait that elicits admiration for a man who, despite his increasingly unconvincing efforts to retain some shreds of his vandal status, has had an undeniable impact on art.” —The Times (UK) “A fascinating history of a wholly likeable art phenomenon.” ,Sunday Times (UK)
The Legendary UK graffiti artist Banksy’s work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road.