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Shepard Fairey

Banksy Biography

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Birth Name: Banksy

Even though not much was known of the mysterious artist who used the pseudonym Banksy, he reportedly revealed in several interviews that he was born in the mid-1970s and grew up in a small town in Southern England. He first became inspired by street art with the work of an artist named 3D, who had lived in New York and brought the spray-painting trend to the streets of Bristol. 3D went on to form the music group Massive Attack, but not without inspiring countless others to try their hand at street art. Banksy's fascination with the medium exponentially increased through his adolescent years. He joined a graffiti crew in the early-1990s and became a part of the Bristol underground scene, a community of artists and musicians that spawned the trip-hop genre and recognized urban graffiti as an art form.

Banksy developed his own style of street art by using a stencil technique that depicted various images such as rats, monkeys, children and military figures as a form of social or political commentary. His anti-establishment beliefs dominated Banksy's guerilla-style street art, with stencils randomly popping up on walls, street signs, and other public spaces around Bristol, London and other major cities. He gained a cult following, not only for his work, but for his hyper-elusive personality. There were very few - even among the street art community - who could confirm Banksy's true identity. He let his work speak for itself, whether it was large-scale images of war and peace on the Israeli West Bank barrier, or a stencil found on a London street of Charles Manson hitchhiking. In August 2004, Banksy printed a large quantity of fake British ₤10 notes that substituted the Queen of England's photo with the head of Diana, Princess of Wales and contained the message "Banksy of England." The counterfeit bills were then distributed to a crowd at the Notting Hill Carnival, where some of the recipients actually used the money to pay at local shops. The fake notes later sold on eBay for ₤200 (roughly $316), while one of 50 signed posters containing ten uncut notes sold at Bonham's auction house in London for ₤24,000 (around $38,000). The artist also gained a large celebrity following, including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera, who were said to have paid thousands of dollars for his work.

Banksy frequently held exhibitions in Los Angeles, including one in 2006 titled "Barely Legal." The much-hyped event was held in a downtown warehouse and included an installation of a real-life elephant painted pink and gold. Even though the organic-based dye used did not harm the pachyderm, Banksy caught flack from animal rights' groups, including the Los Angeles Animal Services who described it as a form of abuse. Such daring acts were chronicled in Banksy's directorial debut, the 2010 documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop." The film followed Thierry Guetta, an eccentric French shop owner-turned-amateur filmmaker, his obsession with street art, and his quest to expose Banksy's identity. The first half of the film recounted the history of street art and featured the genre's most famous names, including Shepard Fairey, who famously illustrated the "Hope" portrait of presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" takes an odd turn midway through the film when Guetta finally interviews Banksy, and the mysterious artist switches the focus of the film onto his interviewer. The rest of the documentary, without explanation, turns into a film about Guetta and his strange friendship with the artist. The pair documents a stunt where Banksy, on a trip to Anaheim's Disneyland with Guetta, places a blow-up doll made to look like a Guantanamo Bay prisoner in the middle of the park. The film concludes with Guetta himself turning into a street artist named "Mr. Brainwash" and putting on his first gallery exhibition. The weirdly fascinating film received positive critical reviews and earned a Best Documentary Film nomination at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, Feature.