Hunting for Banksy in the Rain

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“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” 
― Banksy

Ever since I watched the 2010 Academy award nominated documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” years ago, I have been obsessed with Banksy. In 2010 he was named one of the most influential people in the world.

Some may think he doesn’t deserve the honor, others may be tired of hearing about him. Some may not have the same appreciation for his artwork or even his method of display. He provokes debate, his methods can be seen as over-the-top and controversial. I get it if he isn’t your cup of tea!!

An apparent Bansky naysayer near Portobello Road, London

There is sooo much to write about him, but will keep it brief. You can find loads more about him by just googling his name – so many interesting articles out there.

For those of you who have never heard of Banksy, he is a street artist from Bristol, England. No-one but his close friends, family and business partners know who he actually is – his real name has never been published (though speculated many times)….how he has managed to remain anonymous is pretty phenomenal in itself. He rarely gives interviews but when he does, they are done via e-mail or he alters his voice.

His design of street art (aka, graffiti) is stencil based and is a method he used to allow him to paint faster to avoid a night in the pokey. If you watch the documentary, you can see how he does it.

He rose to fame in the late 90’s in London – his art sprung up all over the city, seemingly always over night – he managed to remain elusive to the English Boobies Bobbies. Since then, his art has appeared all over the world – Europe, US, Palestine, and Australia.

His works generally represent his disdain for authority or to highlight humanitarian issues – usually meant to make a statement and in many cases are completely outrageous. He has decorated live elephants (see below) and released rats during his art installations. He has managed to do his work covertly in museums, Disneyland, the London Zoo…I don’t know how he does it!

Image provided by Mental Floss. “Tai was painted to blend in with a set-up of a living room, and was supposed to symbolize how the problem of world poverty is ignored.”

“The Girl and Balloon” below is one of his most iconic works you have probably seen before.

Image provided by Wikipedia. Original Location: The Waterloo Bridge in London
“The heart-shaped balloon is believed to represent love, hope, innocence, childhood and self-confidence. It’s thought that the piece symbolizes losing something which is within your grasp.”

One of his most recent shenanigans (October 2018) occurred during the sale of his artwork of a version of “The Girl and Balloon” which sold for $1.3 (or $1.4) million USD at Sotheby’s London. What he did with this was BRILLIANT. Minutes after the piece was sold, someone (presumably him) pressed a remote control button and it shredded itself! There was a small malfunction and it didn’t shred all the way – in the end that artwork allegedly doubled in value.

Image provided by Forbes

There is a video of the whole event HERE. There are snippets of him in the clip – he usually wears a hooded sweatshirt so you can’t see his face. From what I understand, all proceeds from his sold work goes to charities. That makes me love him even more. 🙂

When we were recently in London and Paris, in between wandering aimlessly in the rain….if we got stuck without something to do, I would google Banksy to find some of his artwork in whichever part of town we were in and go a-hunting. He usually places his artwork on walls or his own installations and they are not always obvious. No telling how many we un-knowningly passed on our journey to cover every inch of these two giant cities.

The locations to find his work will bring you to parts of town you may never go to: down alleyways, under bridges, etc. Sometimes they are large and obvious, other times they are somewhat small – in fact, I am sure people frequently walk by his artwork without noticing.

His notoriety means his artwork, if you can find it, is covered in plexi-glass so people don’t carve it out of brick walls and such. It’s nuts. There is a chance when you actually get to one of the identified locations, the art wont exist – either because the building is being torn down or renovated or someone has spray-painted over it. I only know this because I went on a couple of wild goose chases!

I managed to find 3 pieces – 2 in Shoreditch, London, 1 in the 5th Arondissmont in Paris and searched for 2 others in Paris I couldn’t find.

There used to be a skeleton driving this car….I can’t see a thing. Shoreditch, London
Shoreditch, London
Paris, France. The red “blood” was an addition by someone other than Banksy. This was drawn to remember “May 68 in France – Ten million workers on strike, young people in the streets, public services at a standstill, a paralysed economy”

Honestly, I could have planned the entire trip around this activity…it’s like hunting for Easter eggs. This most likely would have sucked for Sean – but – perhaps I’ll go back for a long weekend and do it on my own. In fact, its been officially added to my bucket list!

His work has inspired me to search for ALL kinds of interesting street art in nooks and crannies, on sidewalks, overpasses, lamp-posts, etc. Adds to the fun of a walk-about in a big, European city!

Cheers,

Pam

This post is part of the 30-day November blogging challenge known as NanoPoblano2019. Our challenge is to write for 10 days, read others’ posts for 10 days, and share our posts for 10 days – could be to other social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or simply sharing with friends with a text link.

Check out this NanoPoblano2019 link and read some talented writers/bloggers posts!

28 comments

  1. I think Banksy did some work in Melbourne early on and the council there just thought it was graffiti and cleaned it all off the walls! If only they knew how much that art was worth. I think I also read a story a few years ago where Banksy dressed himself up as a hobo and tried to sell some of his artworks in Central Park in New York. People were haggling with him and got him down to $20 a piece only to find out the real worth of those paintings a bit later!! I just love his disruptive approach to life! Thanks for hunting out some good ones. Mel

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Awesome, and I love the way that looking for street art can make us more observant and aware of our surroundings.
    MY personal favourite Banksy is the shopping bag Jesus he did which is a fairly old one but I love the commentary it made on materialism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know of Banksy but didn’t know he’d been around since the late ’90s. I remember the recent auction sale of his artwork and thought it was delightfully subversive. Oh to be so creative and acclaimed and almost anonymous. Very cool person.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I didn’t know I knew Banksy, but I remember the shredding prank well. When on vacation in urban areas, my wife and I just like to walk around taking in the sights. I think we’d love to search for street art, since it would take us into less toured parts of a city. Do you know any websites that highlight street-art walks?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good question. Every town seems to have a different approach to street art. In Denver, we have a part of town where u can wander the streets in a segregated area. Next time you all head out, I would google street art and see what comes up. Many people go crazy for it and have locations to help find it. I love hunting for it. In NYC, I just look on the sidewalks, buildings, lampposts, etc. and find little things all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I realized that where I saw his work was the Moco Museum in Amsterdam. We did not go inside, but I saw quite a few outdoor installations. Sadly, only a photo of the building, not the works.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real Banksy work (I’ve read a bunch about him, though). Have you ever been to Bogota? A lot of the street art there is done for the same social reasons, and a few of the top artists are likewise unknown and like it that way. We had an amazing tour there, led by one of the artists (who still did not tell us which work was his or who he was). Very cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t been to Columbia unfortunately. Your tour sounds pretty cool. They had an art walk in east London, that looked like it might have been a goodie. Do you remember the artists name? Hope driving in TX yesterday wasn’t scary. Getting to the airport was slightly nuts.

      Liked by 2 people

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