When thinking about the artists who changed street art, there are two names that inevitably come up—Banksy and Ron English. Both made art for public benefit on streets around the world and have shown in museums and galleries, elevating the status of the medium and proving its ability to operate effectively outside of the traditional art system. 

A central thread between their art is a critique of injustices; for Banksy, this usually manifests itself in site-specific stencil works, and for English, it occurs in pop art collaborations and altering existing work. Banksy often tackles global politics head-on, while English employs subtle subversion to reveal untold stories of lies and greed. A key difference between the artists, however, is that Banksy remains faceless and anonymous, while English maintains a public appearance.

Though they are by no means in direct competition, it’s worth debating each artist’s influence to examine how they’ve gone harder, created successful careers for themselves, and changed people’s perceptions of street art. We discussed their art based on style, message, commercial success, badassery, and global influence below.