Banksy: Guerrilla Art Tourism
Posted on October 22, 2012 by
Is it art, or vandalism? Banky is a Bristol, UK based graffiti and guerrilla artist that has become famous for his clever, satirical designs. Mostly using spray-painted stencils, he anonymously leaves his artwork in public locations with varying themes - but often including his signature rat character. The context of the work, or "piece," often plays a role in the composition. The context can participate artistically, such as a random brick pattern or building vent that unintentionally becomes incorporated into the piece. Or, the location serves as a logical place to serve the particular message of the piece. Most of Banksy's work was displayed in his native Bristol, nearby Brighton, and in London. He has also taken his messages to other parts of the world, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Boston, Spain, and Australia.However, many of his most famous images were placed on the wall separating Palestine from Israel.
The irony of Banksy's work is that the very messages frequently included in the pieces have been twisted as Banksy becomes more famous. Banksy takes jabs at capitalism and commercialism, yet his artwork is frequently finding its way into auction houses and celebrity collections, at increasing selling prices. So, the very people Banksy is making fun of are clammoring to buy his images, making Banksy more rich and famous as well. The preservation of his work also conflicts with the temporary nature of street art. Building owners finding themselves as the lucky recipients of Banksy work have seen increased property value as a result. Some of Banksy work has been cut from walls or removed - strictly to be sold. Municipalities have to face the contradictory decision of whether to preserve Banksy art, or remove it like any other graffiti. In some cases, governments have encased the works in plexiglass (Perspex), to preserve it and encourage tourism. These examples have led some to claim that Banksy has "sold out," and motivated others to deface his work.
No advanced notice is given for new Banksy pieces. News is spread by word-of-mouth after new work is discovered. It's never quite certain that a piece is an authentic Banksy until a photo is added to his official website. There's also a website set up to confirm Banksy work (www.pestcontroloffice.com). The mysteriousness and spontaneity of the process gives it a poetic feel..."Where's Waldo" meets Indiana Jones, if you will.
Because of the temporary nature of the pieces - exposure to the elements, increasing market value, illegality of graffiti, and political differences/rivalries - Banksy pieces don't have a long lifespan. Nevertheless, there is a tourism niche for people that want to find and see the pieces. Phone App have been developed, and two volumes of books were published, specifically aimed toward those who wish to take a walking tour of the UK pieces (see the resources section below).
We have added a number of Banksy pieces to our database that we believe are still present in their original locations. We'll continue to add pieces as we find out about them. Please be sure to leave comments if you have any updates on the condition of the pieces. Let us know about any that we haven't added yet. Note that you can find many of the pieces in Google Streetview, using the address and/or GPS coordinates we provided.
Banksy offical website: www.banksy.co.uk
Banksy tour apps: iPhone app, Bristol tour, London tour
Books & Movies
Links redirect to Barnesandnoble.com
Banksy Locations & Tours Volume 1: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs in London, England
Banksy Locations & Tours Volume 2: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs from around the UK
Banksy: Wall and Piece
Banksy: Myths & Legends
Banksy: You Are An Acceptable Level of Threat
Exit Through The Giftshop - satirical documentary DVD
Exit Through The Giftshop (Blu-ray)