Banksy | Mystery

Banksy is the most private of street artists and yet notorious among the provocateurs… an enigma who merges social and political themes as he simultaneously maintains complete anonymity. On November 29th, two Montréal companies—Ballon Rouge and S16 gallery—will put Dream Boat, one of Banksy’s works of art, up for sale in Miami. close-up on the Banksy image.


Who is he? How old is he? What does he look like? The aura of mystery surrounding Banksy perpetuates his myth. His first work of graffiti appeared on the walls of Easton and Bristol in England in the late 1990s. In the 2000s, he moved to London making it his pied-à-terre. The artist remains anonymous, but his name is certainly prominent in alternative activist and counterculture circles. Rats, monkeys, and various characters stencilled on the walls of the city, often a form of caustic social commentary, attract the attention of passers-by and art aficionados alike. The printing of a counterfeit banknote picturing the late Princess Diana in 2004, his artwork originally appearing on the wall of Bethlehem (where we see, for the first time, an image of Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald happily skipping alongside a young Vietnamese girl burned by napalm) as well as on the Israeli separation barrier, then, later that same year, the stealth inclusion of his own artwork, without permission, in the collections of major museums including the British Museum, alerting the media. The Banksy name is spreading like wildfire. Inspired by his reputation, imitators abound under the shroud of anonymity. The only official body that can authenticate a genuine artwork by Banksy is Pest Control Office, which was set up in 2009. Street art simply becomes art.

Fame does not prevent the social activist from showing his claws. In 2018, he upended the art world at a Sotheby’s auction when he secretly installed a shredder in the frame of Girl with Balloon. As the hammer fell to signal the end of the bidding, and after the piece fetched 1.5 million Canadian dollars, it immediately began to self-destruct. In 2021, the piece was resold at nearly twenty times the price. Banksy’s artwork turns up on the Gaza Strip. He has denounced the condition of migrants by graffitiing the walls of Paris. He has financed the Louise Michel, a migrant rescue vessel that is sailing the Mediterranean to help rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. This cause is particularly close to Banksy’s heart, as part of his temporary exhibition Dismaland (2015) included the creation of Dream Boat, the embodiment of the dream of thousands of migrants who pile into boats, hoping to start a new life. The artwork resurfaced in 2018 when, at the artist’s initiative, the general public was invited to pay £2 to guess its weight as part of a fundraiser for the Choose Love charity to help refugees. The winner (who wishes to remain anonymous) has entrusted Ballon Rouge and the S16 Gallery to ensure its resale. This honour is truly a first, all to the credit of these two Montréal companies and their expertise. and

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