‘Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.
And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty,
you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.’
Few artists have made a greater impact on society than Banksy has since the very beginning of his career. Although he primarily relies upon stenciling to create his work (an ideal choice given the speed with which he must execute street works), he also has an extraordinary ability to constantly innovate and use his creativity to provoke, surprise, and share messages with the world.
With dark humor, a remarkable sense of aesthetics, and admirable wit, Banksy seems to perpetually be 10 steps ahead of the rest of us, and the themes, topics and issues his work addresses are as relevant today as they were when they were initially created.
This Summary Timeline is not intended to be an exhaustive list of everything Banksy has ever done or been involved in. In fact, it would be virtually impossible to document each and every project or piece Banksy has created over the past 20 years since he produces work at a prolific rate. Instead, it is designed to give some idea of the variety and depth of his creativity, as he constantly innovates and surprises even those Banksyphiles who have been following him since the beginning.
Having said that, there are many other portions of this website where visitors are able to read extensively about each of the things below, as well as many other projects, works, and exhibits not mentioned in this overview. It is merely a ‘10,000-foot view’ and a more detailed look is available elsewhere on the site. Enjoy!
WORK IN PROGRESS
PLEASE COME BACK FOR MORE
Early Years: 1990-1999
Banksy started as a freehand graffiti artist in the early 1990’s as one of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ), along with two other artists known as Kato and Tes. He was inspired by local artists, and his work was part of the larger Bristol underground scene with Nick Walker, Inkie, and 3D. During this time he met Bristol photographer Steve Lazarides, who began selling Banksy’s work, and eventually became his agent.
Banksy’s first “inside” art exhibition took place in a flat in 1998, in Easton, Bristol, where he mostly show-cased some acrylic on canvas. There was notably an early version of Love Is In The Air.
On 22-23 August 2008, Banksy, together with Inkie organized his first open air street art exhibition called Walls on Fire, with the town hall’s agreement.
Banksy’s first known and preserved large wall mural, entitled The Mild Mild West, appeared in 1999 to cover advertising of a former solicitors’ office on Stokes Croft in Bristol. It depicts a teddy bear about to throw a Molotov cocktail at three riot police officers, in reference to a recent incident between police and some of Bristol’s youth earlier that year.
The Mild Mild West, Bristol, 1999
By 2000, Banksy had turned to the art of stenciling after realizing how much less time it took to complete a work. The urban legend claims the artist changed to stenciling while hiding from the police under a rubbish lorry, when he noticed the stenciled serial number. By employing this technique, he was able to more quickly, discreetly, and efficiently execute street pieces – a winning combination when what you’re doing is illegal! It wasn’t long before he became highly regarded for his art around Bristol and London.
Banksy’s stencils often feature striking and humorous images that are occasionally paired with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment. Subjects often include animals such as monkeys or rats, as well as policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly that are recurring characters used to help articulate and convey a particular theme or message.
Banksy organized his first two exhibits in 2000. The first one, known as Severnshed, was held in a restaurant in Bristol, the Seven Shed bar and restaurant. He exhibited some of his early originals for the first time including the first versions he created of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Playmate of the Month, and Simple Intelligence Testing which broke a spectacular auction record a few years down the road.
Banksy’s second exhibit, deemed as an Illicit Outdoor Gallery Experience, was held on Leake Street in London, on 31 May 2000.
The Easton Cowboys
Banksy joined The Easton Cowboys, a radical football team from Bristol. In 2001 they went to Chiapas in Mexico to play against a football team from EZLN – Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional. Banksy played as a goalkeeper. During the stay in Chiapas the Banksy team completed a few nice stencils and at least two free-hands.
Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall
Cargo Club, July 2001
Banksy publishes his first book of four up to date. Banging your head against a brick wall contains some very well written texts along images of his most prominent street art and some interesting originals. 54 pages in B&W.
Banksy’s second self-published book, Existencilism, sees the light in May 2002 and is heavier on rats than his first.
‘Like most people I have a fantasy that all the little powerless losers will gang up together. That all the vermin will get some good equipment and then the underground will go overground and tear the city apart.’
On 19 July 2002, Banksy’s first Los Angeles exhibition debuted at 331⁄3 Gallery, a tiny venue owned by Frank Sosa and was on view until 18 August. The exhibition, entitled Existencilism: an Exhibition of Art, Lies and Deviousness, presented for the first time some of his most iconic stencils such as Barcode, Bomb Hugger, Love Is In The Air, and Laugh Now.
Girl With Balloon is perhaps Banksy’s most notable and iconic work, demonstrating the graffiti stencil technique he has become renowned for. A 2017 public poll ranked Girl with Balloon as the UK’s number one favorite artwork. Girl with Balloon appeared for the first time as a mural on Waterloo Bridge, in South Bank, London. This striking visual was accompanied by the quotation ‘There is always hope.’
In 2003, at an exhibition called Turf War, held in a London warehouse, Banksy painted on live animals as part of a much larger exhibition of his work. Even though the conditions were deemed suitable by authorities, an animal rights activist chained herself to the railings in protest. As is always the case with Banksy, however, he was a few steps ahead and used safe and non-toxic paint that was intended for marking animals. In this seminal early exhibit, Banksy released works such as Monkey Queen, Toxic Mary, and Flying Coppers.
Love Is In The Air, also known as Flower Thrower or LIITA, first appeared in 2003 as a large format stenciled graffiti in Jerusalem shortly after the construction of the West Bank Wall. The graffiti was made on the 760km wall that separates Palestine from Israel.
The wall, as Banksy put it, “essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison.” The wall rapidly became a giant canvas for paintings and writings protesting against its construction.
Love Is In The Air, 2003 Screen-print in colors on paper 50×70 cm (19 5/8 x 27 1/2 inches) Edition: 500 (50 signed)
Starting in 2003, Banksy released numerous prints based on some of his iconic stencils and were published by Pictures on Walls. Early prints did not sell out as quickly as one might imagine, despite the fact that they were sold for roughly GBP 50 for an unsigned print, and GBP 70 for a signed one.
In August 2004, Banksy produced a quantity of fake 10-pound notes, replacing the picture of the Queen’s head with the head of Diana, Princess of Wales, and changing the “Bank of England” to “Banksy of England.” They were called Di-faced Tenners and became quite important in the artist’s career as they eventually became an integral part of the authentication process set-up by Pest Control Office (PCO).
‘It’s going to take one very special lady,
or a whole load of average ones to get over you’
Banksy, or more likely one of his associates, threw a large number of Di-Faced Tenners into a crowd at the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival, which caused people to frantically grab as much of the money as they could and immediately go spend it at the festival. These notes were also given with invitations to a Santa’s Ghetto exhibition by Pictures on Walls.
Banksy released a series of rat prints in 2004, including Gangsta Rat, and Love Rat.
In August 2005, Banksy, went to Palestine and created nine stunning murals on the Israeli West Bank Wall. It is the first of many trips the artist would take to the region.
The same year, Banksy created a sculpture based on a crumbled red phone box with a pickaxe in its side, apparently bleeding. This work was installed in Soho Square, London 2005 and later recovered from Westminster Environmental Services.
Crude Oils featured 20 versions of classical oil paintings, re-invented by the artist. The show was also populated by around 200 live rats and featured some interesting sculptures. This “Gallery of re-mixed masterpieces, vandalism and vermin” ran for about a week in October 2005 in a small shop in Notting Hill located at 100 Westbourne Grove, London.
Banksy exhibited 20 re-mixed masterworks inspired by the works of iconic artists such as Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, or Vincent van Gogh. Show Me The Monet sold at Sotheby’s London on 21 October 2020 for GBP 7,551,600 (USD 10,320,000).
In August 2006, Banksy replaced about 500 genuine copies of Paris Hilton’s debut CD, Paris, in UK record stores with his own, doctored cover art and remixed music by Danger Mouse. Music tracks were given titles such as “Why Am I Famous?,” “What Have I Done?,” and “What Am I For?”
Banksy created history in Los Angeles when he opened an exhibition called Barely Legal, billed as a “three-day vandalized warehouse extravaganza,” on the weekend of September 16, 2006. The exhibition featured a live elephant in the room – painted in a pink and gold floral wallpaper pattern no less which, according to leaflets handed out at the exhibition, was intended to draw attention to the issue of world poverty – the “proverbial” elephant in the room.
Although the Animal Services Department had issued a permit for the elephant, after the predictable complaints from animal rights activists, the elephant appeared unpainted on the final day. Its owners rejected claims of mistreatment and said that the elephant had done “many, many movies. She’s used to makeup.”
Banksy released the iconic Barely Legal Prints Set at that occasion.
Barely Legal set, Portfolio of 6 screen-prints on paper
After Christina Aguilera purchased an original of Queen Victoria as a lesbian and two prints for £25,000, on October 19, 2006, a set of Kate Moss screen-prints sold at Sotheby’s London for £50,400 – an auction record for Banksy’s work at the time. The six silk-screen prints, featuring the model painted in the style of Andy Warhol sold for five times their estimated price. This was still only the beginning of Banksy’s formidable ascension in the auction world.
Banksy’s artworks reached previously unprecedented heights at auction in 2007. In February 2007, Bomb Middle England sold for GBP 102,000 which, at the time, set the high water mark for a Banksy work at auction. Ballerina with Action Man Parts sold for GBP 96,000 and Glory for GBP 72,000.
Ballerina with Action Man Parts, 2005 Painted resin, 31x20x18 cm (12 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 7 1/8 inches) Edition: 6
Sotheby’s London, 8 February 2007
To coincide with the second day of auctions, Banksy updated his website with a new image of an auction house scene showing people bidding on a picture that said: “I Can’t Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit.”
On 25 April 2007, Banksy reached a new record high at auction with Space Girl and Bird selling for GBP 288,000 – more than 20 times its estimate at Bonhams London.
Space Girl and Bird, 2003
Spray-paint on steel
133×54 cm (52 3/8 x 21 1/4 inches)
Bonhams London / 25 April 2007
GBP 288,000 / USD 398,648
On 21 May 2007, Banksy earned the award for Art’s Greatest Living Briton. Banksy, as expected, did not turn up to collect his award and maintained his anonymity. Banksy also left some iconic murals in London that year, including Yellow Line Flower Painter and One Nation Under CCTV.
In London, over the weekend of 3-4 May 2008, Banksy organized and hosted an exhibition called The Cans Festival, on Leake Street, a road tunnel formerly used by Eurostar underneath London Waterloo Station.
Graffiti artists with stencils were invited to join in and paint their own artwork, so long as it did not cover anyone else’s. Banksy invited artists from around the world to exhibit their works.
In late August 2008, marking the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the associated levee failure disaster, Banksy created a series of murals in New Orleans, mostly on buildings derelict since the disaster, including the now iconic Nola.
Banksy left Nola, also known as Umbrella Girl, and numerous other murals, including Abe Lincoln as a homeless.
Banksy released a print in 2008 in various colorways.
For his debut “exhibit” in New York, Banksy chose to open a very “unique” pet store on 5 October 2008, The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. The animatronic pets in the store window included a mother hen watching over her baby Chicken McNuggets as they peck at a barbecue sauce packet, and a rabbit putting makeup on in a mirror.
2009 is a key transition year for Banksy. He parted ways with his long time agent, Steve Lazarides, and established Pest Control Office. It was at this time that he announced that Pest Control Office, the handling service who would act on his behalf, would be the only primary point of sale for any new works.
On 13 June 2009, the Banksy vs Bristol Museum show opened at Bristol City Museum and Gallery. It featured more than 100 works of art, including animatronics, sculptures, paintings, and installations. It was his largest exhibition to date, featuring 78 never before seen works and was regarded as a huge success. The exhibition drew more than 300,000 visitors over the duration of the show.
In December 2009, Banksy marked the end of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference by painting four murals about global warming. One notably included the statement “I don’t believe in global warming” submerged in water.
The world premiere of Exit Through The Gift Shop occurred at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on January 24, 2010. Banksy created 10 street pieces around Park City and Salt Lake City to mark the occasion and celebrate the screening.
Cameraman and Flower, Salt Lake City, 2010
On 29 April 2010, Time Magazine named Banksy as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People, along with Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Zaha Hadid, and Nancy Pelosi among others. Each essay on those leaders has been written by a major personality from their sphere, and Shepard Fairey was chosen to write the piece for Banksy.
‘People usually see art as an abstract emotional vehicle, lacking the direct impact of language. Banksy paints over the line between aesthetics and language, then stealthily repaints it in the unlikeliest of places. His works, whether he stencils them on the streets, sells them in exhibitions or hangs them in museums on the sly, are filled with wit and metaphors that transcend language barriers.’
In April, to coincide with the premiere of Exit Through the Gift Shop in San Francisco, five of his works appeared in various parts of the city. Banksy reportedly paid the owner of a building in Chinatown in San Francisco $50 for the use of their wall for one of his stencils.
Follow Your Dreams – Cancelled, San Francisco, 2010
In May 2010, seven new Banksy works of art appeared in Toronto, Canada, though most have been subsequently painted over or removed.
Banksy was credited with the opening couch gag for an episode of The Simpsons in 2010. His name appears several times throughout the episode’s opening sequence, spray-painted on assorted walls and signs.
In 2010, a mural depicting some young, masked individual appeared on a wall of the Grange Pub. Shortly thereafter, Banksy released his last print with Pictures on Walls, and his best-seller entitled Choose Your Weapon.
Choose Your Weapon, London, 2010
Choose Your Weapon was released in grey as a signed edition of 100, then in numerous colorways in signed editions of 25 prints, the brighter the color, the better…
In late January 2011, Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for a 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Exit Through the Gift Shopdid not win the award, which went to Inside Job.Exit Through the Gift Shop was broadcast on British public television station Channel 4 on 13 August 2011.
In April 2011, Banksy participated to Art In The Streets, the first major US Museum survey of graffiti and street art, at the MOCA in Los Angeles, curated by Jeffrey Deitch.
The artist exhibited numerous iconic works spanning his career to date from stencils of his classics, to versions of many outdoor works such as Crayon Child and Chalk-lined Living Room. He also installed some of his animatronics and displayed some sketches.
In May 2011, Banksy released a lithographic print which showed a smoking petrol bomb contained within a Tesco Value bottle.
Banksy created a few iconic walls in London that year, including Falling Shopper, also known as Shop Till You Drop, or If Graffiti Changes Anything It Would Be Illegal.
Falling Shopper, London, 2011
If Graffiti Changed Anything It Would Be Illegal, London, 2011
London, Summer 2012
Banksy created a few murals in 2012, notably at the occasion of the Olympics held in London that year.
On 1 October 2013, Banksy began a one-month show on the streets of New York, during which he opened a separate website and granted an interview to The Village Voice via his publicist. Banksy produced one mural, art installation, or stunt for each single day of the month except for one which he said was called off due to police activity – though perhaps that was his piece of art for the day.
The Street Is In Play, Better Out Than In, New-York, October 2013
A pop-up boutique of about 25 spray-art canvases appeared on Fifth Avenue near Central Park on 12 October 2013. Tourists had the opportunity to buy Banksy art for just $60 each, though only 8 pieces were sold all afternoon.
It was reported that Michael Bloomberg, then Mayor of New-York called Banksy a vandal whose work is not the definition of art, and that the NYPD’s vandal squad was on the hunt for Banksy.
Banksy opened Dismaland, a large-scale group show modelled after Disneyland on August 21, 2015. It lampooned the many disappointing temporary themed attractions in the UK at the time. Dismaland permanently closed on September 27, 2015. The “theme park” was located in Weston Super Mare, United Kingdom.
In December 2015, Banksy created several murals in the vicinity of Calais (France) including the so-called “Jungle” where migrants live as they attempt to enter the United Kingdom. One of those murals, The Son of A Migrant From Syria depicts Steve Jobs as a migrant from Syria.
“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant.
Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
Banksy returned to New York five years after his Better Out Than In residency in 2018. A trademark rat running around the circumference of a clock-face, dubbed Rate Race was torn down by developers within a week of it appearing on a former bank building at 101 West 14th Street. Other works, including a mural of imprisoned Kurdish artist Zehra Dogan on the famed Bowery Wall and a series of others across Brooklyn, remain on display.
In October 2018, a version of Balloon Girl with the artist’s frame got sold at Sotheby’s London for over GBP 1 million. However, shortly after the gavel dropped and the piece was sold, an alarm sounded inside of the picture frame and the canvas passed through a shredder hidden within the frame, partially shredding the piece. Banksy then posted an image of the shredding on Instagram captioned “Going, going, gone…”
The prank received vast media coverage around the world, with one newspaper stating that it was “quite possibly the biggest prank in art history.” Sotheby’s released a statement: “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one,” and called it “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”
Port Talbot, December 2018
Season’s Greetings appeared in Port Talbot, Wales, in December 2018, and was quickly provided with a temporary protective covering to prevent vandalism.
A two-sided mural, one side depicting a child tasting the falling snow, the other revealing that the snow is in fact smoke and embers from a fire, appeared on two walls of a steelworker’s garage.
On 22 May 2019, Banksy posted a short video on his Instagram account stating “setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale.” Indeed, the minute-long video shows a man whose face is concealed by a newspaper sitting next to a series of framed, oil paintings in the street, on the sidewalk, amongst a sea of other artists and souvenir vendors. This selection of “Venice in Oil” seems like an appropriate fit for the romantic city, populated by various gondolas, but also struggling from the consequences of large cruise ships.
In early October 2019, Banksy opened a “pop-up shop” named Gross Domestic Product in Croydon, South London in order to strengthen his position in a trademark dispute with a greetings cards company who had challenged his trademark on the grounds that he was not using it.
In October 2019, Devolved Parliament, a painting depicting Members of Parliament as chimpanzees, sold at Sotheby’s London for GBP 9,879,500, the highest price ever paid at auction for an artwork by Banksy, after 12 minutes of intense bidding.
After the auction closed, Banksy took to Instagram to remark, “shame I didn’t still own it.” At 13 feet (4.0 m) wide it is Banksy’s biggest known work on canvas. The auction house stated: “Regardless of where you sit in the Brexit debate, there’s no doubt that this work is more pertinent now than it has ever been.”
Bristol, February 2020
On 13 February 2020, a special Valentine’s mural appeared on the side of a building in Bristol’s Barton Hill neighborhood, depicting a young girl firing a slingshot of real, red flowers and leaves. In the early hours of Valentine’s Day (February 14), Banksy confirmed this was his work via his Instagram account and website.
In May 2020, Banksy created a painting to pay tribute to healthcare workers, donating it to The University Hospital of Southampton. This work, entitled Game Changer shows a young boy kneeling down as he plays with a doll dressed as a nurse, complete with face mask, illustrating how all healthcare workers should be celebrated as heroes for the sacrifices they made during the coronavirus pandemic. This is reinforced by the fact that fictional heroes like Batman and Spiderman sit in a basket, as the boy prefers to play with his new role model.
Posted to Banksy‘s Instagram with the title Game Changer, this work is almost entirely monochromatic except for the Red Cross symbol on the nurse’s apron.
“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
On 14 July 2020, Banksy hit the London Tube to paint a new, COVID-19 inspired artwork. In support of facial coverings, Banksy shared a video on his Instagram shortly after he executed this new stunt. He dressed in official looking protective gear and a bright, orange vest and boarded the London subway armed with paint in an industrial looking sprayer and various stencils to create his work.
On 29 August 2020, Banksy announced he financed a lifeboat to save refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
‘Like Most People who make it in the art world, I bought a Yacht to cruise the Med. It’s a French Navy Vessel we converted into a lifeboat because EU Authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from non-Europeans.’
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, the bright pink boat features the word “RESCUE” on its side, and the iconic Girl with Balloon can be found on the other side of the boat, only this time instead of holding a balloon, she’s holding a heart-shaped life ring. The boat was named “Louise Michel” after the French feminist anarchist.