Banksy: an artist on the fringes of the system

Published on : 05 April 20212 min reading time
Banksy is the pseudonym of a “guerrilla” street artist known for his controversial and often politically-themed stencil works. Who is Banksy? The identity of the mysterious British street artist has been a closely guarded secret since the sarcastic stencil first appeared on the scene.

Who is Banksy?

Banksy, a street artist whose identity remains unknown, is believed to have been born in Bristol, England, around 1974. He gained notoriety in the late 1990s for his provocative stencil work. Banksy is the subject of a 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which explores the relationship between commerce and street art.

Banksy’s identity

Despite intense speculation, Banksy’s identity remains unknown. The two most commonly proposed names are Robert Banks and Robin Gunningham. Photos that have surfaced of a man allegedly named Banksy point to Gunningham, an artist born in 1973 in Bristol. Gunningham moved to London in 2000, a date that coincides with the development of Banksy’s work. Given Banksy‘s notoriety and the fact that, by default, people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their hands on one of his works, much of what he does is actually illegal. Banksy’s public works are usually done under the protection of obscurity and without permission, and he usually doesn’t refer to them until long after the paint has dried. While his anonymity obviously brings an element of mystery to his work, it ultimately serves as a safety shield for the artist, as his work is known to be criminally damaging in many cases.


In the early 1990s, Banksy began his graffiti career as part of the Bristol-based graffiti group DryBreadZ Crew. Although his early work was mainly freehand, Banksy also used stencils. He began using mainly stencils in the late 1990s. As his signature style evolved, his work became better known in Bristol area and in London. Banksy‘s work includes distinctive images, often combined with slogans. His work also covers political subjects, satirically criticising war, imperialism, hypocrisy and greed. Rats, chimpanzees, cops, royalty and children are common subjects. Banksy is well-known for his installations, in addition to his two-dimensional work. One of his most popular works, depicting a live elephant painted with a Victorian wallpaper pattern, has caused outrage among animal rights groups.

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