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Banksy Street Art Tour: The Best Graffiti by the Most Secretive of Artists

Banksy, Girl With Balloon: one of the most famous pieces of street art by the artist.
Banksy, Girl With Balloon, London, UK, 2002

By Charlotte Lydia Stace

“If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to
wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie.”

Banksy

Street artist and infamous provocateur Banksy is regularly making headlines, whether it’s a new piece of graffiti appearing somewhere around the world, a whopping auction sale, or a debate surrounding one of his works. Most recently, he has been in the news due to the recent destruction of one of his street art pieces in Bristol by actor Christopher Walken for a BBC comedy show.

While his graffiti and street art have become famous images recognized around the world, Banksy himself is a lot more inconspicuous and secretive as the real name and identity of the artist, political activist and film director born and raised in Bristol remain unknown and have been the subject of much speculation

Read on to find out more about Banksy the artist, and discover some of his essential street art pieces from around the world. 

Who is Banksy?

Banksy is an enigma – no one knows who he is, where he lives, or when he will produce his next work. What we do know, however, is that while he keeps his identity a secret, he chooses to display his artwork in public places for everyone to see. These spontaneous artworks appear on social media channels, such as Banksy’s Instagram account, before anyone discovers that they’re there. 

Banksy began producing street art in his hometown of Bristol during the early 1990s. He started working with spray paint on trains, before moving to public places around the city. Throughout his career, he has chosen to work with stencils, creating his own and using spray paint to place them on walls. His art usually features striking and humorous images, poignant slogans, and is more often than not imbued with political, social, and cultural meaning. 

As “street art” and “graffiti” are associated with criminal damage in many places, such as the UK, he chose the name Banksy to remain anonymous. The name appeared more and more next to graffiti popping up around Bristol. As he gained more attention and recognition, from the early 2000s his work started to appear in other cities around the UK as well as other parts of the world. 

Banksy’s infamous street art around the world

Banksy’s is on view for all to see in various locations around the world. We explore some of these pieces and their significance – but there are plenty more left to be discovered.

Bristol

Originally from Bristol, Banksy’s artworks can be seen all over the city. 

The Mild Mild West 

Banksy, The Mild Mild West, graffiti in Bristol.
Banksy, The Mild Mild West, 1997, Stokes Croft, Bristol, UK.

Banksy’s first well-known large wall mural was The Mild Mild West which he spray-painted in 1997. It covers the advertising of a former solicitors’ office on Stokes Croft in Bristol and shows a teddy bear lobbing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police. 

Achoo!!

Banksy, Aachoo!!, 2020
Banksy, Aachoo!!, 2020, Vale Street, Totterdown, Bristol, UK. ITV.

A recent work of Banksy’s, Achoo!! (2020) can be found on Vale Street. It shows an elderly woman sneezing and losing her dentures. 

Girl With the Pierced Eardrum 

Banksy, Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, 2014.
Banksy, Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, 2014, Hanover Place, Bristol, UK. Original work.

Girl with the Pierced Eardrum (2014) is located between Hanover Place and Sydney Row. It is Banksy’s 21st-century take on Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring (1665) – in this case, the iconic earring consists of an octagonal burglar alarm.

Well-Hung Lover 

Banksy, Well-Hung Lover, 2006.
Banksy, Well-Hung Lover, 2006, Park Street, Bristol, UK.

On Park Street, you’ll see Well-Hung Lover (2006). It is especially imbued with meaning because Banksy spray-painted it on the side of a sexual health clinic.

London

There are countless Banksy images located around London. Some of his must-see artworks include the following. 

If Graffiti Changed Anything – It Would Be Illegal

If Graffiti Changed Anything – It Would Be Illegal, 2011.
Banksy, If Graffiti Changed Anything – It Would Be Illegal, 2011, Clipstone Street, London, UK.

Banksy’s iconic rat appeared on Clipstone Street in Fitzrovia in 2011. This work of street art references a quote by the 20th-century political activist Emma Goldman. She campaigned for Women’s rights and said: “If voting ever changed anything, it would be illegal”.

Shop Until You Drop 

Banksy, Shop Until You Drop
Banksy, Shop Until You Drop, Bruton Street, London.

Appearing in 2011, this spray-painted stencil of a woman and a shopping trolley falling is located in one of London’s most high-profile shopping areas in Mayfair. Typical of Banksy’s style, it provokes discussion about capitalism and consumerism. 

Yellow Lines Flower Painter

Banksy, Yellow Lines Flower Painter, 2007.
Banksy, Yellow Lines Flower Painter, 2007, Pollard Street, London, UK.

Situated on Pollard Street, this graffiti shows a painter resting after painting double yellow lines that turn into a large yellow flower. Although largely damaged, this painting still remains visible. 

Girl With Balloon 

Banksy, Girl With Balloon: one of the most famous pieces of street art by the artist.
Banksy, Girl With Balloon, London, UK, 2002. 

Perhaps Banksy’s most recognized mural, Girl With Balloon (2002) shows a little girl losing her red heart-shaped balloon. It originally appeared in London, yet has since been reproduced in various locations. It pays homage to youth and the loss of innocence. 

Brighton

In 2004, Banksy headed to Brighton to create one of his most iconic works.

Kissing Coppers

Banksy, Kissing Coppers, 2004
Banksy, Kissing Coppers, 2004, The Prince Albert Pub, Brighton

Kissing Coppers (2004) was originally painted on a wall of The Prince Albert Pub. Yet, it was removed and bought by an anonymous buyer in Miami during 2011. It was so iconic that a copy appeared later on Frederick Street so that the public can still see it. While many see the work as advocating for societal acceptance of homosexuality – especially in connection to the city’s vibrant LGBTQ community – others see it as a mockery of authority.

New York

New York is one of the major sites for street artists from all over the world to paint. Unfortunately, many of Banksy’s artworks have been painted over or sold. Yet, there are a few that remain intact. 

Hammer Boy 

Banksy, Hammer Boy, 2013,
Banksy, Hammer Boy, 2013, 79th Street, New York, NY, USA

Hammer Boy (2013) on 79th Street, belongs to a series of art pieces created by the artist around New York City over a 31-day period. Showing a young boy playing with a hammer in the act of hitting a ‘real’ hydrant, the work is an excellent example of how Banksy creatively incorporates ordinary urban objects into his artistic production. 

Waiting in Vain at the Door of the Club

Banksy, Waiting in Vain at the Door of the Club, 2013
Banksy, Waiting in Vain at the Door of the Club, 2013, 678 W 51st Street, New York

Located on 678 W 51st Street, this piece from 2013, shows a man holding a wilting bouquet of flowers while supposedly waiting for someone to come out of a club. The artwork appeared on a side door to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club.

Chicago

In 2015, the city council of Chicago spent thousands on covering up much of the city’s graffiti, causing the destruction of a number of important works. Today, the city’s only remaining piece by Banksy is Baby Carriage Moving Downstairs. 

Baby Carriage Moving Downstairs 

Banksy, Baby Carriage, graffiti in Chicago.
Banksy, Baby Carriage, 2010, Randolph with Peoria, Chicago.

Located on the corner of Randolph and Peoria, the work has been created in 2010 while Banksy was promoting his documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop”. The image of a baby carriage moving down a flight of stairs references the classic scene from Chicago’s movie classic “The Untouchables”.

Los Angeles

L.A. is another prime location for amazing street art and another site for Banksy’s work. 

Swing Girl

Banksy, Parking.
Banksy, Parking, between 2010 and 2014, S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, USA

At some point between 2010 and 2014, Banksy created this piece of street art on S Broadway. The artist has whitewashed the ‘ing’ from the word “parking”, while a girl swings from the remaining “park”. Many people believe that this references the need for safe, green spaces for children to play in the downtown area.  

San Francisco

While the vibrant city of San Francisco still has a few of Banksy’s pieces on show, many of his most famous have been covered up in recent years. 

 If at First You Don’t Succeed – Call an Airstrike

Banksy, If at First You Don’t Succeed – Call an Airstrike, 2010.
Banksy, If at First You Don’t Succeed – Call an Airstrike, 2010, Broadway, San Francisco

On Broadway, San Francisco, Banksy openly criticizes US politics. This piece of street art shows a child wearing a gas mask and saying the words ‘If at first you don’t succeed – call an airstrike’. 

Bird Singing in Tree

Banksy, Bird Singing in Tree.
Banksy, Bird Singing in Tree, Mission district, San Francisco

Located in the Mission district of San Francisco, Banksy’s Bird Singing in Tree is shown with a small tree trunk and a bird singing. The wall has since been decorated by other artists who have added animals and forest-like images. 

New Orleans

Banksy visited New Orleans in 2008 to mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He left the locals some beautiful artworks in recognition of the event. 

Umbrella Girl

Banksy, Umbrella Girl, street art in New Orleans.
Banksy, Umbrella Girl, 2008, Kerlerec Street, New Orleans.

Part of the ‘Nola’ series, this mural on Kerlerec Street depicts a young girl under an umbrella that turns out to be the source of the downpour instead of protecting from it. This series of works serve as a reminder of Hurricane Katrina and the detrimental floods to the area. 

I Must Not Copy What I See on the Simpsons

Banksy, I Must Not Copy What I See on the Simpsons
Banksy, I Must Not Copy What I See on the Simpsons, New Orleans

On St Bernard Avenue with N Robertson Street, Banksy depicted a boy who resembles Bart Simpson. He is shown writing on a blackboard in homage to the iconic introduction to the TV series, “The Simpsons.”

Paris

A number of street artwork by Banksy appeared in Paris in 2018. This coincided with the 50-year anniversary of the student uprisings of 1968. To mark this day, talks were being held in many of the university buildings to discuss the consumerist capitalism of today. 

Minnie Mouse

Banksy, Minnie Mouse
Banksy, Minnie Mouse, 2018, Rue Maitre Albert, Paris, France

One of his most famous murals is a mouse situated on Rue Maitre Albert, next to a migrant center. Here, the year 1968 is shown with the 8 being removed and placed on the mouse’s head to represent Minnie Mouse – a nod to the consumerism of Disneyland. 

Red Horseman 

Banksy, Red Horseman, 2018.
Banksy, Red Horseman, 2018, Avenue de Flandre, Paris, France

Spray-painted on Avenue de Flandre, Banksy’s representation of Napoleon with a red veil on his face references a controversial aspect of French law. In 2010, wearing full-face veils in public became forbidden under the law. 

Calais

Banksy created two controversial stencils at Calais’s migrant camps in France as a means to highlight the refugee crisis.

Steve Jobs 

Banksy, Steve Jobs
Banksy, Steve Jobs, 2015, Calais, France.

Created in the so-called “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, Banksy’s image shows Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and the son of a Syrian migrant, carrying an Apple computer and bag of his personal possessions. He stated: “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 $7bn (£4.6bn) a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”

Refugees Waving to a Luxury Yacht

Refugees Waving to a Luxury Yacht, 2015
Banksy, Refugees Waving to a Luxury Yacht, 2015, Calais, France

Created during Banksy’s time at the camp in Calais, Refugees Waving to a Luxury Yacht clearly references Theodore Gericault’s painting Raft of the Medusa (1818). Here, however, the artist chooses to illustrate the refugees piled on the raft and waving at a luxury yacht in the distance. 

Bethlehem

Banksy has been very active in commenting on issues surrounding Israel and Palestine through a number of artworks in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.

Pillow fight

Pillow Fight, 2017
Banksy, Pillow Fight, 2017, Room of The Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, Palestine

The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem is a five-star accommodation that takes pride in the “worst view in the world”: the controversial Israeli West Bank barrier. The hotel itself, opened by Banksy on Caritas Street, Bethlehem, serves as a powerful political statement. The artist has also meticulously – and at times satirically – curated the interior, including the wall decoration featuring highly-meaningful paintings such as the one showing a pillow fight between an Israeli border policeman and a Palestinian man.

The Armoured Dove

Armored Dove
Banksy, Armored Dove, ca. 2007, Manger Street, Bethlehem, Palestine

Banksy chose the side of a Palestinian Heritage Center to create his Armored Dove, a controversial commentary on the Palestine-Israeli conflict often associated with Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, where a dove is stabbed to express the violence of war. Its wings wide open and an olive branch in its beak, the animal symbolically connected with peace wears an armored vest and a target is pointed at its chest.

Relevant sources to learn more

Click HERE to explore a unique selection of works by Banksy available for sale on Artland.

Coronavirus Street Art: How The Pandemic Is Changing Our Cities
Masters of Illusion. Top 10 Contemporary Trompe L’Oeil Artists
Read about Saving Banksy and other documentaries about artists

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