Art Review: Is It Worth Keeping a Banksy?

Ask anyone who the most famous artist is today and they will have the same answer: Banksy.

A plastic sheet was placed in front of the garage in Taibach, Port Talbot, to protect it. Mr Lewis was concerned that people would begin to chip bits of wall from his garage as souvenirs.

No one has taken on politics, capitalist greed and oppression more than the street artist.

The graffiti artist is an enigma: amateur sleuths want to credit him, the police want to find him and auctions want to market him. So far all have been unsuccessful.



As a teenager, Banksy was involved in the DryBreadZ Crew in Bristol in which they took the name ‘Banksy’ to protect their identity. Choosing a tag is common within the graffiti culture in order to avoid arrest and create a brand for their work. Consequently, Bristol enjoyed a large amount of spray can art in the early 1990s.

By the mid-1990s, the artist became inspired by French graffitist Blek le Rat and his political messages. We can thank Mr le Rat for the style of art we see today, le Rat used a variety of innovative materials, such as stencils, to create anti-establishment art.

Stencil work started to appear within Bristol such as ‘Mild Mild West’ which referred to the riots in Bristol in 1992. Banksy began to show a view against the establishment.

In an interview with the Herald Scotland, he said: “There is a side of my work that wants to crush the whole system, leaving a trail of the blue and lifeless corpses of judges and coppers in my wake, dragging the city to its knees as it screams my name”.

The millennium called for a change in location. Rats and chimps started to appear around the capital city of London as well as in the mainstream press. Steve Lazarides became the artist’s agent and publicist.

With the help of Lazarides, a series of self-published books appeared on the shelves: Brandalism, Existentialism and Cut Out and Collect only aided Banksy’s popularity.

Brandalism – A term coined by the street artist representing his art that featured an attack on brands and the inevitable globalisation that comes from corporation take over.

In 2008, Banksy was the biggest name in British graffiti and took on the art market in his biggest venture yet. Banksy held exhibitions not in art galleries but in unused locations such as abandoned tunnels.

The Cans Festival saw the creation of the Leake Street Tunnels in London. The tunnel was converted into a giant exhibition space by Banksy and twenty nine other artists in the half a mile tunnel in Waterloo.

Images of pop idols accompanied installations of crashed cars as people added their own art in the three-day exhibition.

“I’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men.”

The tunnels are still a permanently on show in the gallery and are added to regularly by artists. If you are ever in Waterloo, take a trip to the tunnels and support these artists fighting back against societal restrictions.

Since then Banksy has made his mark with Dismaland, exhibitions across the UK as well as shredding his art after it sold for £1m at Sotheby’s in his self-destructive stunt. Two decades on from his beginnings and Banksy’s art is still in demand, his popularity has skyrocketed and more and more people want to get their hands on his artwork.

However, should we be protecting illegal graffiti art and could it be that it brings more harm than good?


David Anslow was renting his house to students in Bristol when he received a call one day from one of the tenants asking if his graffiti artist friend could do some work on the side of the house.

It was years later before Mr Anslow realised what he had was a Banksy. However, problems arose when he came to sell the house years later.

The 32-foot mural was seen as unattractive to potential buyers who wanted the artwork cleaned up and removed.

Anslow is a lover of the contemporary arts and decided to sell the Banksy as artwork and throw the house in for free, a publicity stunt for the opening of his gallery Red Propeller. People from around the world blew up Anslow’s phone offering prices. A potential buyer in LA asked to remove the mural, this risked the house becoming structurally unsound.

To put a stop to the arguments about what to do with the mural, the council ordered for it to be cleaned off. The news got around. Someone broke into the house and threw buckets of red paint over the mural, destroying an artwork that had brought the community together.

Soon every graffiti artist wanted to tag the wall and the house became a display of local artworks, the remnants of the Banksy are still visible. The house eventually sold for £160,000.

They Just Don’t Last


Banksy is alleged to have painted the Thekla with a simple tag which the harbour master painted over. The artist returned and painted an image of the Grim Reaper to represent the actions of the harbour master.

The floating venue is a hub for the creative community and there were rumours that Banksy had long ago displayed his famous rat images within the boat.

The only way the Reaper could have been painted onto the side of the by boat would have been from a rowing boat under the cover of darkness. With the positioning of the work on the side of the boat, it is unlikely that it could have been stolen lest it sinks the boat.

However, with the work being so close to the waterline it was likely that it would soon deteriorate.

The Reaper was removed in 2014 and sent for perseveration. It is currently on display in the M-Shed museum. The Thekla, with the help of artist Inkie, made the venue space for street artists in Bristol.

Who owns it?

A Banksy artwork was discovered on the wall outside of a youth club in Bristol in 2014 and started a debate on the ownership of these artworks.

Denis Stinchcombe attempted to sell the work on the door of the Broad Plain Boys’ Club in Bristol and sparked a debate with his local council as to whether he had the right.

To settle the debate Banksy wrote to the cash-strapped club stating that Mr Stinchcombe had ownership rights and could, therefore, sell the artwork on the club’s behalf.

‘Mobile Lovers’ is an artwork that shows a couple embracing whilst checking their mobile phones over the heads of their partner. The piece was attached to a piece of wood on the wall of Clement Street and is unlikely to have lasted long without the help of a few club members and a crowbar.

The work sold for a whopping £400,000 for the club. Mr Stinchcombe claims that “Within 12 months we could have been closed, which means 120 years of exceptional youth work in Bristol would have been lost”.

A mural has since been created in thanks to Banksy, created by the Young Bristol Creative Team.

It is dangerous to have a Banksy


Mr Stinchcombe reappeared on the news earlier this year after he recommended Ian Lewis remove ‘Season’s Greetings’ after it appeared on his garage wall earlier this year.

“The longer he leaves it the worse it is because anyone who’s anyone wants to put their tags on it.”

A plastic sheet was placed in front of the garage in Taibach, Port Talbot, to protect it. Mr Lewis was concerned that people would begin to chip bits of wall from his garage as souvenirs.

Mr Stinchcombe claimed that he received price offers and a number of death threats after he removed the piece from his youth centre. People claimed that he had stolen the work and as a result it was required to be locked up in a police cell overnight to escape vandals.

Mr Lewis hired guards and has built a transparent covering over the work to protect it from taggers. But should we be protecting this artwork?

By nature, graffiti is a temporary subject much like capitalism or political issue it comments on. Banksy has been quoted to say that he believes commercial success to be a mark of failure for a street artist, most likely commenting on the success of Shepherd Fairey in 2008 after he designed Barack Obama’s ‘Hope’ campaign poster.

The pressure that the artwork placed on Mr Lewis to decide its fate causes many to dislike the artists work for its imposition on people’s lives. His messages show an effect on the wider community but is Banksy forgetting the effect he has on the locality.

In the case of the Broad Plain Boys’ Club Banksy’s work bought the necessary funds the club needed to survive. In the case of Mr Lewis’ garage, Banksy failed to realise that Mr Lewis would want to protect the work and would pay out of pocket to do so.

What is new with Banksy?

In May 2017, Banksy announced that he was responsible for the European Union flag that had been painted on the side of the Castle Amusements building. The artwork is monumental and comments on the Brexit debate with a man on a ladder painting over one of the stars.

The building had been set to be demolished but the artwork’s importance required preservation. However, on Sunday the mural vanished. The wall appears to have been painted white and a scaffold covers the wall it was once located.

The fate of the mural is unknown, it could have been removed for preservation or painted over completely. The artwork was valued at £1m but was starting to show signs of deterioration prompting calls to protect the piece.

There has been no comment on the condition of the work.


camera-iconImage respects to - artnet News, TripAdvisor, Mirror, Arts & Collections