Do you think street art legend Banksy has to sell a wall to get a little money?
His paintings appear all over the world in major population centers. If he were broke, he wouldn’t even be able to buy a plane ticket.
And can you imagine how much it takes to protect your identity for three decades?
If you’ve ever wondered how Mr. Anonymous makes a living, read on. We’re getting to the bottom of this puzzle.
Let’s hit it!
The Story of Banksy
If you’re looking for the man’s secret identity, you’re looking in the wrong place. Even if we did know, we’re keeping it mum. But let’s see if we can shed a little light on this enigmatic artist.
What we do know goes a little something like this. In his early teens, Banksy peppered the walls of Bristol, England, with his crew DryBreadZ or DBZ. When he decided to change directions, he started working with another Bristol graffiti artist, Inkie. The two of them painted the town red with their traditional graffiti style until one day, something significant happened.
Banksy was around 18 when the police almost nicked him. Imagine that short career. Instead of just getting nabbed, he hid under a big truck. While waiting for the dust to blow over, he noticed the truck’s stenciled letters. At this point, Banksy realized that stencils were much faster than freehand painting.
In the early 2000s, Banksy relocated to London and jumped onto the world stage. His satirical, highly politicized work gained traction, and his career took off. The problem was that no one knew who he was.
He started selling work through now defunct art dealer Pictures on Walls (POW). For a time, you could own a guaranteed original of your very own. Banksy even signed some of the numbered prints and made even more.
Banksy started creating work on a much grander scale than stenciled graffiti. He created installations in New York City, Weston-Super-Mare (England), Bethlehem, and Venice. He found himself at the top of the art world; nothing could stop him. But Banksy realized something about himself. He loved being anonymous.
Too Much Success?
Then, in January 2018, POW closed up shop due to being too successful. Steve Lazarides, the British dealer and Banksy’s agent for a time, said in a statement that street art is supposed to be accessible. The secondary art market inflated prices too high, and they didn’t want to be part of the machine anymore.
In October 2018, one of his most iconic paintings sold at auction for £1.04 million. Just as the hammer came down, the picture frame shredded half of the painting. Banksy claimed this act of art terrorism on his Instagram channel, and the world was stunned…into raising the value of the shredded work.
Since then, Banksy opened a hotel in Bethlehem (Walled Off Hotel) and changed his style again. Instead of graffiti and installations, he started creating highly detailed paintings of things like the British Parliament as a bunch of apes (Devolved Parliament).
In 2020, he unveiled a new black and white artwork (Game Changer) making heroes out of the National Health Service nurses.
He’s still out there creating work around the world. We just don’t know how he pays for it all!
What is Banksy Pest Control?
Ok, we have an idea. One way is through selling art directly to collectors. He created an authentication office called Pest Control to verify paintings as originals. The office has a detailed website with information about how to purchase and confirm Banksy’s art. They also list if there is anything available for purchase. Currently, there is nothing available.
This is such a valuable thing for Banksy because people often copy his style. They try to co-opt his art onto mugs, wine labels, and canvas prints. There is only one way to know if it’s legit—the Pest Control office.
How Many Books Has Banksy Released?
To date, Banksy has published four books. Each contains images and text from Banksy, showcasing and explaining his art. Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall (2001), Existencilism (2002), Cut It Out (2005), and Wall And Piece (2005).
No surprise here; you can get them on Amazon. If you’re a serious collector, the first book is a compilation of three mini-books. If you can find them, get them.
What is Banksy’s Net Worth?
For all of his secrecy, there are certainly bankers who know Banksy’s identity. After three decades of groundbreaking work, Banksy is worth around $50 million. But don’t think that he’s all about the cash.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, he said he didn’t encourage people to buy anything the artist didn’t intend for sale. If the creator meant for it to be public art, it should stay that way.
What Are Some of Banksy’s Art Pieces?
A few Banksy pieces rise to the top of his body of work. They’re international symbols of resistance and peace, recognized around the world.
Girl with Balloon
First painted on Waterloo Bridge, London, Girl with Balloon features a young girl reaching out for a balloon as it floats away. The girl is a simple figure, young and innocent, and the balloon is red and heart-shaped.
Banksy includes this image in campaigns worldwide as a political statement. It appeared in Bethlehem, all over London, and was the subject of his self-shredding painting.
Sweep it Under the Carpet
As a political artist, Banksy’s Sweep it Under the Carpet is just as relevant today as when he painted it in 2006. The original shows a British maid lifting a white wall to hide swept dust, revealing red bricks behind.
In 2006, the AIDS crisis was in full swing, and world governments simply didn’t react appropriately. Banksy painted this piece as a commentary on inaction; leave the uncomfortable truths out; we just want power.
Rage, the Flower Thrower
Another iconic image is Rage, the Flower Thrower, first painted in Bethlehem close to the West Bank of Jerusalem. Painted in 2005, the work comments on the Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people. Far from his only work on the subject, Rage points directly to the act of resistance.
A young, masked resistance fighter throws a bouquet of beautiful flowers. Reminiscent of the Vietnam-era protestors leaving flowers in the barrels of machine guns, this painting represents the people of Palestine.
Where Can I See Banksy’s Art?
If you don’t have the budget to fly around the world and see Banksy’s paintings in person, here are a few spots you can find them. In-person or online, the impact of the work is always front and center.
This traveling exhibit claims the title of the most extensive collection of privately owned Banksy art. You can see all your favorites, including over $35 million in original pieces. Collected works from 1997-2008, the most recognizable period of his career, fill gallery walls.
You’ll feel right at home in this modern exhibition, complete with music, rock-show lighting, and video. Eighty pieces of art will leave you satisfied. Check out their schedule online and get a taste.
Seattle Federal Reserve Building
For a limited time, you can see The Art of Banksy: “Without Limits” at the Federal Reserve Building in Seattle. You’ll love this traveling exhibition with over 150 artworks ranging from originals and prints on various materials to photos and sculptures.
They even have reproductions of his work using the same techniques. Not sure it’s Banksy approved, but it’s worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Banksy Earns Money the Street Way
So, how does Banksy make money? By making a statement. People love an artist with a strong point of view, and he’s happy to oblige. And if we take something away from his art that helps make the world a better place, we like to think it makes him smile. Whoever he is.