The Story of Banksy

His satirical painting “Devolved Parliament” just sold for a record-breaking $12.1 million. He's one of the most controversial, celebrated, and elusive artists of modern times — this is the story of Banksy.

Laugh now, but one day no-one will be in charge

He doesn’t need to be seen to be a success. Banksy is one of the most prized guerilla/graffiti artist/political activists in the world. In 1999, his first known mural was discovered in Bristol. He started using stencils after hiding from the police to be more efficient. The message behind his work is fiercely anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment. He uses subjects like rats, apes, policemen, soldiers, children and the elderly.

Despite his fame he has never revealed his true identity. Around 2000, his works started appearing across London. In 2005, he travelled to the West Bank and created 8 stencils. His art can be found on streets, on buildings, and in public spaces., so it is easily painted over or destroyed — like in 2007 when Transport for London painted over the iconic mural. Banksy was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for his 2010 art world satire Exit Through the Gift Shop. Communities are now fighting to keep his works in their original spaces. He has held exhibitions in L.A. London and Sydney. Some of his works have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a 2018 stunt, his “Girl With Balloon” self-destructed after being sold for $1.4 million. His 2009 “Devolved Parliament” featuring chimpanzees in Britain’s House of Commons has sold for $12 million at Sothetby’s. The artwork became Banksy's most expensive to date in London on October 3, 2019.

Surface-level revisions of paintings are made by artists all the time. When reached for comment, Sotheby’s confirmed that the painting going up for auction is indeed the same work as the one shown in Bristol a decade ago. A representative for the company told the New York Times that the changes were made by the artist himself, though the timeline for the alterations and the motives behind them are unclear. Still, given Banksy’s high-profile stunts, it’s tempting to speculate that he may have something up his sleeve again.