Little is known – officially – about the artist Banksy, who prefers a degree of anonymity and guards his privacy carefully. Rumoured – according to a Daily Mail investigation – to have been born in 1973 to a respectable Bristol, UK, family and then privately educated, he is known for his work rather than his personality. His became noticed in Bristol as a graffiti artist in the early 1990’s. His technique incorporates freehand work, stencils and spray paint. He claims he was converted to stenciling as a quick-getaway technique when hiding from police under a truck, where he noticed its stencilled serial number.
Banksy’s stencils feature striking and humorous images, often with anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment slogans. Subjects frequently include rats, apes, policemen, bombs, soldiers and children. His prowess as a street artist drew the attention of the mainstream art business and in 2002 he had a small exhibition in the 33⅓ Gallery in the Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Banksy’s work began appearing at fine art auctions, where it attracted bids well over the high estimates, and sold to celebrity collectors such as Christina Aguilera, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
One measure of the way Banksy has moved from the street to the investment market is the mobile home story. In 2008 a couple from Norfolk, UK, decided to sell their mobile home. A decade earlier Banksy had asked if he could use the side of their home as a large canvas. In thanks he gave them two tickets to the Glastonbury Music Festival. Consequently, their home features a 30-foot mural, entitled Fragile Silence. The mobile home bought by the couple 11 years earlier for £1,000 GBP, was being sold for £500,000. Another sign of his ‘respectability’ – he contributed a work Protect From All Elements to a charity sale organised by Leonardo de Caprio. The high estimate was $100,000. It sold for $315,000.