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15 Illegally Arty Banksy Facts

Is he a genius? Is he a vandal? He might be the world's most famous living artist - but how much do you know about this legendary artist and prankster?

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  October 10th 2023

Banksy is an artist, a celebrity, a millionaire and a sneaky vandal. His graffiti style of art breaks both the law and auction house records. But he's also got in trouble for being mean to elephants - so what are we supposed to think of this legendary street artist? That's up to you to decide - all we can help you with is this list of 15 eye-opening Banksy facts. Have a read, and make your own mind up!

By the way we've got other arty stuff too - like these art jokes, this art history quiz, or you can even click here to find out what kind of artist you might be! Ok, back to Banksy!

1. Nobody knows who he is!

There have been a lot of guesses and a lot of conspiracy theories - but the identity of the world's famous living artists is STILL a secret! And after decades of fame, that must have taken a lot of effort and planning! He's used all kinds of tricks to keep his identity hidden, including disguises!

2. Or do they?

Banksy is originally from Bristol, England, and some have said that he is in fact fellow Bristolian street artist Robert del Naja. Robert is also known as 3D from the band Massive Attack. But nobody knows for sure!

3. The world's most famous graffiti artist

Banksy uses graffiti to make his art. He uses spray cans and stencils to leave artworks on the sides of buildings - from shops and banks, to people's houses. Graffitiing without permission is illegal - but Banksy doesn't care! His art is so popular and valuable that nobody would complain about it being sprayed on their wall. But other graffitti artists don't have that luxury!

4. Banksy's style

Banksy combines his graffiti style with politics and humour. Most of his work points out unfair things in society, or shows unexpected twists on things we all know. Sometimes his work can be funny, other times a bit sad. Examples are a painted builder knocking off a star from the EU flag once Britain left during Brexit, or this rioter throwing a bunch of flowers instead of a brick.

5. He likes rats

A rat on some floorboards

Rats often appear in Banksy's work. He clearly likes to paint them, and they work well as unexpected heroes of his art. He has also portrayed humans as rats, pointing out the similarities between rats in a rat run and humans working 9-5 jobs. It probably comes from the phrase "rat race"!

6. And has got in trouble for his use of animals in the past

A muddy elephant (not a painted one!)

Banksy's use of animals has got him in a bit of trouble too. He once held an art show that featured live rats running around on the floor! That one didn't get too many complaints, but he also once painted a live elephant. His elephant show ended up being cancelled because he got a lot of criticism for animal cruelty. Maybe stick to painting pictures of animals, Banksy!

7. He's made a movie

In 2010 Banksy directed the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Like his other work it includes lots of thought about politics and society, with his classic Banksy humour.

8. And a LOT of money

Banksy started off as an anti-art world artist, who had lots of criticisms of how the art world is run. So it's quite funny to see how rich he's become from his art, and now super-wealthy art collectors all fight over his work. Banksy's paintings are often now worth millions of pounds - and he has broken records for how much he's made. But more on that later!

9. He's got a lot of celebrity fans

Being so famous means other famous people want a slice of the action. World-famous actors, athletes, musicians, and fellow artists have all bought hsi work - people like Damien Hirst, Justin Bieber, Serena Williams and Angelina Jolie!

10. Dismaland

In 2015, he opened Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare (a town in England). Dismaland is a full-scale amusement park, but with a huge twist. Everything is kind of rubbish, and it combines modern art with a faded, broken down tourist attraction. It includes fake security checkpoints, cardboard x-ray scanners, CCTV cameras, and loads of interesting modern art!

11. That shredder episode

At Sotheby’s (the posh auction house in London) in 2018, Banksy held an auction for his work "Girl with Balloon". In a surprise stunt, just as the final hammer fell for the canvas, the work passed halfway through a hidden shredder in the frame. This chewed up half of the painting but was supposed to have destroyed the whole thing. This of course made the artwork EVEN more valuable - and it was re-sold for a record £16 million! By trying to destroy an artwork, he made another. Deep.

12. He's been on the Simpsons!

Banksy's work has ended up all over the place, including on the legendary cartoon the Simpsons. In 2010, he created the opening-credit sequence, or “couch gag,” for the episode “MoneyBart”. We're not allowed to use pictures of the Simpsons TV show - so here's a Simpsons style donit wearing sunglasses!

13. Legend has it he failed art

Exam jokes

A really cool fact about Banksy that we really hope is true (because who knows, really) is that he failed art at school. Bamnksy supposedly failed art with an E grade... and then left school to become maybe the most famlous artist alive today!

14. He's only been caught once

Two USA police officers

Banksy was nicked in New York in the late 1990s, for spraying a billboard on the roof of an apartment building. He spent 40 hours in a cell and was given community service and a fine. These days police would just let him off - or even ask for his autograph!

15. What is art?

Banksy's fame makes us think about what art actually is... because every time he makes new art he is also commiting a crime. And there are lots of other graffiti artists who make similar stuff. But they get in trouble, and Banksy gets rich and famous! What's the difference between vandalism and art? Is it just that famous people like it? What do you think? Either eay - Banksy makes us ask lots of tricky questions! Maybe that's the real art? We don't know!