Who Is Banksy? What’s His Net Worth? The Best Theories About the Artist
Street artist Banksy recently made headlines when one of his million-dollar paintings shredded itself just moments after it sold at auction. “Girl With Balloon” sold for $1.12 million at Sotheby’s in London. But Banksy — whose real identity remains anonymous — had outfitted the frame with a shredder that caused the painting to self-destruct, according to Newsweek. Forbes reports that the elusive artist doesn’t want his art to be worth anything.
But who is Banksy? Why is he keeping his true identity secret? And how much is the legendary street artist worth? Discover all the details, ahead.
Who is Banksy?
Theories have long circulated as art world insiders try to answer the question of Banksy’s true identity. Artnet reports on what it characterizes as the most plausible theories, with street art expert Carlo McCormick giving a “0 percent chance” to most of the popular theories. There’s no way that a Liverpool man named Paul Horner is Banksy, McCormick reports, and Brooklyn artist Richard Pfeiffer also isn’t the elusive street artist. McCormick also thinks that Banksy is one person, not a team of artists. And he thinks there’s a 0% chance that someone named Robin Banks is the artist, either.
McCormick says there’s just a 1% chance that Thierry Guetta — who starred in Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop — is Banksy. He thinks there’s only a 5% chance that Robert Del Naja, frontman of the electronic music band Massive Attack, could be Banksy. But when McCormick moves on to the people who are most likely to be Banksy, that’s when things get interesting.
The art expert thinks there’s a 50% chance that an elusive graffiti artist in Melbourne, Australia, is the real Banksy. McCormick also gives a 50% chance to a man spotted in a Red Hook warehouse around the time that Banksy was working on Siren of the Lambs. But as McCormick notes, “Sightings are of course very different than identifications. They may, in fact, be legitimate but they tell us no more than a Rorschach would.” He also says there’s a 75% chance that Bristol resident Robin Gunningham — identified by geographic profiling — is the real Banksy.
The Sun reports of Banksy’s identity, “A number of people claim to have spotted him at work, but no sighting has ever been officially confirmed, while other clues have been used to try and unmask the legend.” Over the years, fans think they’ve gotten a glimpse of the artist at a Liverpool pub, in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, in an underpass in Banksy’s native Bristol, and outside the artist’s Dismaland installation.
What do we know about Banksy?
Biography notes that though Banksy’s identity remains unknown, there are a few facts that we do know about the artist. He is believed to have been born in Bristol, England, around 1974. As Biography explains, “He rose to prominence for his provocative stenciled pieces in the late 1990s. Banksy is the subject of a 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which examines the relationship between commercial and street art.”
Robin Gunningham — the artist whom McCormick and other experts think is most likely the real Banksy — was born in Bristol in 1973. Gunningham moved to London around 2000, “a timeline that correlated with the progression of Banksy’s artwork,” Biography reports. Banksy began his career as a graffiti artist in the early 1990s. His early works were largely freehand, but Banksy occasionally used stencils. In the late 1990s, he switched to using stencils predominantly. His work became more widely recognized around Bristol and in London as he developed his signature style.
As Biography notes, Banksy has become widely known for creating artwork that features “striking images, often combined with slogans.” The publication notes that “His work often engages political themes, satirically critiquing war, capitalism, hypocrisy, and greed. Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children.” In addition to his two-dimensional work, Banksy also creates installation artwork.
What is Banksy’s net worth?
Biography notes that “Banksy’s worldwide fame has transformed his artwork from acts of vandalism to sought-after high art pieces.” But Forbes reports that Banksy has made his feelings about the commercialization of his art “exceedingly clear.”
He calls galleries that sell his work “unauthorized.” Instead, he’s represented by The Pest Control Office, which Forbes characterizes as “another extension of the artist’s darkly humorous manifesto.” The site declines to authenticate or sell art from Banksy. And as Forbes notes, “Banksy is not in need of money, unlike many of the street artists he identifies with.”
The publication reports that Banksy’s net worth is estimated at more than $20 million. The artist recently discussed his conflicted feelings about profiting from his artwork with The Village Voice, explaining that “commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist.” However, it’s the financial freedom and notoriety afforded by Banksy’s success that enables him to share his point of view with the world.
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