When we think of fame, we think of the usual A-listers and more often than not, we can put a face to the name, too - right? And the same goes for modern day artists, except for one...
Active since the 90s, Banksy has been a global talking point, all whilst remaining entirely anonymous. Combining his passion for art with political and social commentary, Banksy is one of the most talked about artists in the world. However, remarkably, he has managed to achieve all of this while at the same time remaining anonymous.
An activist, rebel, trend setter, art entrepreneur and media icon; all done behind the protection of anonymity. I doff my cap to Banksy, who ripped up the rule book and then wrote his own!
Banksy: the brand and storyteller
After growing up and studying in Bristol, Banksy began to pursue his interest in art at the age of 14 before moving to London where he continued to grow in popularity throughout the early 2000s.
Similarly to Banksy, I always had an interest in art and studied it at A-Level. I was, and still am, fascinated by human interaction and the expression of messages and feelings through the art medium.
I was obsessed with branding and storytelling, how people have the power to influence others and how brands manage to direct their audiences to engage, and/or consume on instruction, which explains why I do what I do now.
Through the use of art and in particular, the medium of graffiti art, Banksy has used his name and incredible talent to tell stories all around the world.
Having established his signature style within the art world, Banksy has become recognised for his striking stencils and controversial markings.
With meaningful messages throughout all his work, Banksy’s art shares important messages surrounding anti-war, anti-capitalism and anti-establishment as well as hypocrisy and greed. Common subjects of his art include rats, apes, soldiers, police officers, children, and the elderly.
As a brand, Banksy has innovated and challenged the established normal and remained consistently genius throughout his entire career, continuing to drive change with his thought-provoking and market leading graffiti art, which is one of the many reasons I doff my cap.
Anonymity and risk taking
Some, including Banksy, may argue his need to stay anonymous due to the nature of his work. As we know, graffiti is a form of vandalism and is therefore illegal, so at first, it would have made perfect sense for his identity to be kept a secret. But why is he still passionate about not being named?
To put it simply, Banksy has gone from local vandal to a global powerhouse brand, which is a rather impressive jump if you ask me. Genuine and hugely relevant, Banksy is even more credible now compared to when he started, and that’s without fans being able to put a face to the allusive artist.
He has established an incredibly successful career for himself by going against the law; however, he is doing more than just spray painting on walls - much more in fact.
Graffiti and street art stems from a history of movement for change, which is something Banksy continues to carry throughout his work.
Each time Banksy goes out to create a piece of work, he is at risk of being spotted and revealing his identity. Although there has been speculation about his identity for years, none of them come with much evidence, so it is still very much a mystery and the subject of speculation.
Banksy’s ability to take such risk, the foundation that his entire career has been based upon, is yet another reason I doff my cap.
Juxtaposition, controversy, and authenticity
Although now a multimillionaire, Banksy and his ‘free’ artwork is something of a contradiction. The beauty of graffiti art is that it’s free for all to consume, which is exactly what Banksy produces – most of the time.
Whilst many of his pieces are hung pride of place in museums around the world, much of Banksy’s work is painted in streets as well as on the walls of buildings in Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and London, including a hotel in Bethlehem, proving that his work continues to have a political bent.
And continuing to prove just that, in 2018, Banksy’s most famous piece, ‘Girl With Balloon’, sold at Sotheby’s for just over £1 million. Minutes later, the piece of art was destroyed by a shredder that had been installed by Banksy himself.
I believe that this stunt did exactly as Banksy had intended. And that was to get people talking. That wasn’t the first time he had pulled such a controversial PR stunt – in 2004, he dressed up as a member of staff at the Natural History Museum and placed his infamous ‘Banksus Militus Ratus’ next to ancient artefacts, of which museum staff failed to realise wasn’t actually a part of the display.
He also did ‘self-installations’ of his work in a number of other museums and galleries across the world, including Tate Britain and The British Museum.
Banksy understands the power of the media and knows how to successfully create a buzz around his name and his work, whilst continuing to stay political, relevant and edgy.
He remains incredibly authentic and has stayed true to himself since the 90s. However, some may say that Banksy is the biggest voice against sell-outs, whilst being perhaps one of the biggest himself.
However, despite all the compelling reasons above, I doff my cap to Banksy because he has managed to pull off the biggest brand coup of them all. He has stayed true to his graffiti route, creating free art for all, while at the same time becoming a multi-millionaire selling artwork through the art establishment elite.
He has remained controversial and political whilst selling his artwork under license across mugs, aprons, posters, coasters – in fact, if you can name it then I bet you can buy a Banksy version of it.
I doff my cap to Banksy for making something that should be incredibly complicated, so simple. He felt it, and did it, and that was that.
For being utterly genius and for being one of the most iconic brands I’ve ever come across, but doing so by breaking every rule in the book – including all those that make up the foundations of good brand management.
To Banksy, I doff my cap.