Back in the day , before murals were being used by mayors and real-estate agents to drive up apartment prices, graffiti was seen by most as a scourge on the neighborhood. Now, with a fancier name, “street art” is a multi-million dollar affair and is welcomed by city councils worldwide as a way to lure the up-and-coming youths to move in and get that parent money to drive up property taxes. When it comes to street artwork no name is more famous, or to some infamous, than Banksy.
As stylized letter graffiti reached its peak in the late ’90s, graffiti artists began experimenting with new mediums to spread their names and ideas throughout their cities. Stickers, posters, tiles and stencils were plastered and sprayed anywhere people might spot it, basically creating impromptu exhibitions around the city. For most artists, local scene fame was the most to be hoped for, trading polaroids of work or throwing it up on a freight train set to leave town were the only ways to really spread your name outside of your city. But, like basically everything, the internet changed that. Message boards slowly spread great pieces across county lines, then came the rise of Myspace and Flickr (think Facebook and Imgur) which lifted street artists to hero levels.
Along with Swoon, Space Invader, and Shepard Fairey, Banksy quickly became known by many but his work always seems a step of above the rest thanks to his use of space and political wit, with word of mouth spreading from his native England to New York City and beyond. He infused anti-consumerist and egalitarian messages into his work that no one else could seem to copy. As the years progressed his daring and grandiose grew with one stunt after another. Yet the mythos of Banksy remains as he still refuses to identify his true identity.
Although some of his work has been co-opted to “Stay Calm and Carry On,” Banksy’s work and attitude is perhaps more important now than before. For all their beauty, murals of abstract shapes or David Bowie do not spark the same kind of discussions or controversy as Banksy’s do. Because of this we decided to recap The Greatest Banksy Artwork of All Time. Whether you enjoy his works, envy his ideas, disapprove of his motives, or admire his style, these 50 works are Banksy’s greatest paintings and pieces to date by our standards.