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Conference Papers
Publications : Chapters in Books

Paul Gough
'‘Bansky: What’s the fuss and why does it matter?’'

in Joseph Siracusa (ed.) Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: it’s everyone’s business, (Sydney and London, Routledge, 2016).

Opening section:

Prankster, polemicist, painter, Banksy is arguably the world’s most famous unknown street artist. To the press and public, the question of Banksy’s identity is more intriguing than the legitimacy of his work and the price that celebrities, dealers and other wealthy patrons are prepared to pay for it. His greatest triumph has been his ability to keep that identity swathed in mystery, even though the artist’s name is said to be in the public domain beyond all reasonable doubt, readily available on Wikipedia and subject to myriad press revelations in the past five years.

Anonymity is less important than the impact of his art, which is more than likely created, fabricated and situated by a group of collaborators. For this reason alone Banksy might best be understood as a ‘he’, ‘she’ or even ‘they’, but for all intents and purposes Banksy is widely-held to be a white male, now in his early to mid-forties, born in Bristol, western England and brought up in a stable middle class family, a pupil from a private cathedral school and a one-time goalkeeper in the infamous Sunday soccer team The Easton Cowboys. At least that is what we think we know. These are the known unknowns.

Notoriously cryptic, darkly humourous, Banksy is a global phenomenon, a personality without a persona, a criminal without a record, and a paradox within the world of art. The New Yorker described how Banksy tries to flip ‘off the art world...[and begs] it to notice him at the same time.’For his part he has described that same world as ‘the biggest joke going...a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak’….