Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art (2020) - full transcript

Banksy, the world's most infamous street artist, whose political art, criminal stunts, and daring invasions outraged the establishment and created a revolutionary new movement while his identity remained shrouded in mystery.

[film reel whirring]

[intriguing music]

[tools whirring]

[Narrator] In October 2018,
the anonymous street artist

known as Banksy published
this video online.

In it, he can be seen
preparing a custom frame

for his painting,
Girl with Balloon.

The painting is about to be
offered for sale at Sotheby's,

one of the world's most
exclusive auction houses.

[dramatic music]

I have $30,000 dollars.

Have we got 32,000?

The event was a
typical art auction.

Banksy's lot was the
last lot of the evening.

The piece sold for
over a million US.

Last chance at 850,000 pounds.

The gavel came down,
sold, gone, sold.

Selling for 860,000.
[bangs gavel]

As the hammer struck,

the work started to
fall through the frame.


And as it did, it shredded.

And everybody witnessed in
horror as it was destroyed.

I was like [inaudible]


Street artist Banksy pulled off

one of the greatest pranks in
the history of the art world.

It caused a huge stir.

I mean, nothing like
that had ever happened.

[speaking in foreign language]

That stunt has already
increased the value

of that painting
up to $7 million.

It plays on people's
fears and emotions

and what true value is.

Where do we place
value in society?

Who does art belong to?

He created an art history moment

and wrote himself again
into the history books.

[rock music]

[curious music]

[Narrator] The stunt atSotheby's wasn't the first time

that Banksy had ambushed
one of the august

institutions of the art world.

15 years earlier, in
the winter of 2003,

a mysterious figure
entered Tate Britain,

one of the UK's most
prestigious art museums

and placed a
painting on the wall.

Over the following 18 months,
fake exhibits appeared

in London's Natural History
Museum, the Louvre in Paris,

and the Museum of
Modern Art in New York,

all covertly installed by
the same anonymous stranger.

He went through seven
different galleries,

putting seven different works
of art up in these galleries.

The one in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

only lasted two hours,
which was understandable,

because it was a painting of
a rather posh-looking lady.

She had a gas mask on, and
that was spotted very quickly.

But the one in
the Museum of Art,

that lasted for several days,

because it was a painting
of a Tesco can of soup,

and it looked just like
the Warhol cans of soup,

and no one noticed it.

It was a daring thing to do.

He did it, he got away with it,

and everyone suddenly
knew his name.

[Narrator] But a name
was all the public had.

Everything else
remained a mystery.

Who was the secretive
artist that had evaded

some of the world's
tightest security

to hang his own work
alongside that of Monet,

Picasso, and Warhol?

Was he just one person?

Or was Banksy a group of people?

Was he hiding his identity
because he was already famous,

someone known to the public,
perhaps a musician or actor?

The stunts themselves
contained clues.

Banksy had launched anaudacious game of cat and mouse.

At the Tate, he
had risked arrest

to bring his art to the public.

In the Met, his piece had been
quickly removed by curators

who were sure that it
didn't belong in a gallery.

And at Sotheby's, Banksy had
performed an act of vandalism.

And it was with vandalism
that it had all started.

[loud banging]

[energetic hip hop music]

[Voice Actor] Graffiti hasbeen used to start revolutions,

start wars, and
generally is the voice

of the people who
aren't listened to.

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 when
they're having a piss.

Graffiti isn't an art form.

Graffiti is a reaction,

an impulse,

is like a spark.

Dynamic, explosive,

Some people say
graffiti ruined my life

and some people say
graffiti saved my life.

A rush.

It's an addiction.

The rush, I think, is sort
of a consequence of it all.

You're scared, and
your blood is pumping,

and your adrenaline is pumping.

But really you're doing
it for the recognition

and not the rush.

Running round a city
and getting your name up

in as many places
as you possible can.

The more risky, the better.

You want your name as big
as possible in lights.

It's fucking ridiculous,
but. [chuckles]

Graffiti is always the
heartbeat of society.

It captures what's going on
at that time, in that moment.

For every Banksy that's
on top and is visible,

you've got hundreds that may
be underground and invisible.

[train clacking]

[upbeat hip hop music]

Graffiti emerged in Philadelphia

and then New York in the
late '60s and early '70s.

The city was in
quote/unquote crisis.

It was a city that
didn't have much revenue.

There was a lot of crime,

there was a lot of
drugs, a lot of poverty.

Graffiti writing
started in neighborhoods

like the Upper West Side
of Manhattan, the Bronx,

Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn,
and it was a movement

started by young kids that
were writing their names

with their street numbers
on the walls around town

to get recognized in some way.

Sort of a game of tag.

You're actually putting
your name on a place

and sort of putting it
more and more and more

and exposing yourself more,

and then someone
else is coming in,

following you and
doing the same thing.

The game exploded
when kids decided

to leave their streets
and go to the next street

and the next street
and the next street

and the next neighborhood and
the neighborhood after that.

And it became hugely popular.

The taller and wider
people sprayed their names,

then somebody came up
with the bright idea

of putting a second
color round their name.

And before you know
it, the stick letters

of small names on
the back of bus seats

had turned into
seven-foot-high letters

on the side of subway trains.

And so then it really exploded
and became an art movement.

[upbeat hip hop music]

[Narrator] Painting, or bombing,New York's subways system

soon became the primary focus
for young graffiti writers

obsessed with having their nameseen as widely as possible.

The nascent art movement
developed its own grammar,

rules, and culture,
all based around

rendering letter
forms, from the tag,

a signature scrawled quicklywith a spray can or marker pen,

all the way up to the
piece, a large-scale,

stylized depiction
of the artist's name.

In 1983, the public was
given its first glimpse

inside the graffiti
underground, with Tony Silver

and Henry Chalfant's
landmark film "Style Wars".

For many, Style Wars
depicted a strange, criminal,

and dangerous subculture.

But for others, it proved
to be an inspiration.

It was a new universe
that was being showcased.

And it was like, "Oh my god,
I gotta get a piece of this."

It became a guidebook
for many people.

You know, where it was like

this is how it's
supposed to be done.

[curious music]

[Graffiti Artist] People
don't know what I look like

until now, until they
start going to the movies.

They're gonna see my face.

Big deal.

Traveling round a city on
transport, and just like,

"There's my tag, there's
my tag, there's my tag."

It makes you feel
like you own the city.

It's like, when
you paint a train

and you see your train
running, you know,

just the terminology:
I saw my train running.

It isn't a train that
somebody catches to work,

this is my train with my
name on it, and it's running.

Graffiti gives this
young individual

some kind of ownership
when they have nothing.

It's a matter of bombing,
knowing that I can do it.

Every time I get in the
train, almost every day

I see my name, and I said,
"Yeah, you know what,

"I was there, I bombed it."

It's for me, it's not
for nobody else to see.

I don't care about
nobody else seeing it

or the face if they
can read it or not.

It's for me and other graffiti
writers that we can read it.

All these other people who
don't right, they're excluded.

I don't care about them.

They don't matter to me.

[police siren chirping]

[Narrator] But young
writers soon found

that the pursuit of their art

meant facing the full
wrath of the law.

As complaints from
the public increased,

New York's civil authorities
announced a war on graffiti,

described the
artists as outlaws,

and linked the prevalence
of tags to an upsurge

in other, more serious
forms of crime.

I think it's the
most disgusting thing

that New York City has.

This station was
just recently painted

a couple of weeks ago,
and they seem to know

when you're gonna paint
the station, and that night

the station will be, end
up almost just like this.

[Reporter] Graffiti
in New York has become

a deep-rooted social problem

that has bubbled up
from the underground

to consume public buildings,
road signs, bus shelters,

and, what's even more
disturbing, people's homes.

It's just a general
and pervasive lack

of consideration
for other people.

I think that's the bottom line.

-I think graffiti's--
-To us, it's art.

-To us, it's art, you know?

It's not a crime, but, you know,

if the government give
us some right to do,

we could make it look nice,
you know what I'm sayin'?

[Interviewee] Like for example,

say you lived in this building.

[Teenager] Yeah, but.

You don't live in this building.

You're comin' into your house,

you're drawing on
this guy's house.

This argument that
graffiti is bad

and that graffiti should
be treated as a blight

and that it should
be treated as a crime

became more the
accepted point of view.

The legal argument did actuallyhijack the art discussion.

[Narrator] It was an approach
that has come to define

the relationship
between street artists

and authority ever since
and would ultimately become

a central theme
in Banksy's work.

Battle lines were drawn,

and the artists were
permanently cast

as belonging to the
criminal underground.

[Reporter] Mayor Ed Koch
signed a law a few weeks ago

that makes it illegal for a
merchant to sell spray paint

or broad-tipped
markers to minors.

But graffiti writers
for the most part

don't buy their
paint; they steal it.

Ski One, who writes
in Upper Manhattan,

says that, while
a friend distracts

the storekeeper, he fills a bag.

You say some kind of can
that they don't have,

it could be hard for
them to look for it.

By the time they look for it,

I'll have 250 cans, 300 hundred.

-In your duffel bag?

[delicate music]

It could ruin your career, yourfamily, your relationships.

If you decide to be
that kind of a person,

that kind of an
artist, you have to be

well aware of
those consequences.

You want your work to be seen

by as many people as possible.

But conversely, you want to
stay as anonymous as possible.

[upbeat electronic music]

[Narrator] Graffiti
was only one part

of the broader youth
culture that emerged

from New York in
the '70s and '80s.

Although it had
developed independently,

the art for becameinseparabley linked to hip hop,

a new type of music and
dance that, like graffiti,

was an improvised, DIY scene

born of the same desolate
urban landscapes:

The Bronx, Manhattan,
and Brooklyn.

Style War presented
DJ-ing, rapping,

break dancing, and
graffiti as expressions

of this same hip
hop sub-culture.

When Tony and Henry
created this film,

it seemed like it
was all together

and it was all this
hip hop package.

The young kids that received
that from around the world

decided that it
was only one thing.

They didn't just
do the graffiti,

they didn't just do the
DJ-ing or the dancing.

They had to do it all.

[Narrator] Alongside Style Wars,

Henry Chalfant
published Subway Art,

a book of the best images
from the subway system,

in collaboration with photo
journalist Martha Cooper.

The music, book, and
film spread graffiti

beyond the perimeter
of New York City,

to walls, trains, and
overpasses across the planet.

[upbeat hip hop music]

I consider Style
Wars and Subway Art

the holy grail of
graffiti, right?

I went out and I stole
two cans of spray paint,

which I learned became part
of the sport of graffiti.

You had to rack your paint.

And I went to my high
school that night,

and I had like two cans
of white, two cans of red,

and I sat out there, and I was
waiting for it to get dark,

and I couldn't even wait.

It was like dusk.

I jumped the fence,
went in there,

did this big surf piece,
and it was terrible.

I mean, just the ugliest
thing you ever saw.

The next day I got to school,
and I was all bummed out,

'cause it wasn't like
the photos I saw.

But I saw a huge
crowd around it,

and everyone was like,
"That's so cool!"

And I was like, "That's cool?"

Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant

completely changed the
direction of my life.

I was a little kid.

I was down at King's Road.

I went into WHSmith's
and I saw this book

called "Subway Art", and it wasthe first thing that I stole.

And it became my bible.

I was like, "Oh my god.

"There's this place where
people are painting trains,

"and you don't know
that they're trains.

"I need to do this for
some weird reason."

Hip hop and rap was being
exported from New York.

I was listening to Grandmaster
Flash and Sugarhill Gang.

I was kind of into
break dancing,

but I couldn't
break dance at all.

I wanted to be
part of the scene,

so graffiti kind
of did it for me.

[energetic hip hop music]

[gentle piano music]

[Voice Actor] I come from
a relatively small city

in southern England.

When I was about 10 years old,

a kid called 3D was
painting the streets hard.

I think he'd been to New
York and was the first

to bring spray painting
back to Bristol.

I grew up seeing spray
paint on the streets

way before I saw it in a
magazine or on a computer.

Bristol is a port.

It's a city built on trade.

Most notoriously, it's
trade was the slave trade,

the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Old Bristol was destroyed
in the Second World War.

And so the whole demographic
of Bristol changed,

because the
working-class community

were moved out from
the center of town.

And it took a long, long time
for Bristol to be rebuilt.

When I was growing up in
Bristol in the '70s and '80s,

an awful lot of it
was still bomb sites.

And that coincided in the '70s

with the closure
of the city docks.

And the center of Bristol
became a bit of a wasteland.

A very multicultural city.

In the last 30 or 40 years,

it's been an incredibly
creative environment.

If you look at the people
who have come out of there.

You have Massive Attack,
Tricky, Portishead,

that have shaped a
new form of music.

You have someone like
Bansky that's gone on

and become famous worldwide.

Bristol is big enough to have
interesting things going on

but small enough that
people connect very quickly

and ideas spread quickly.

Bristol had the opportunity to
have a really healthy scene,

a very focused and
healthy scene growing

quite quickly in the '80s.

[Narrator] That scene, its
art, music, and its politics,

would come to shape
Banksy's future career.

In the mid-'80s, however, he
was still a young schoolboy,

trying to find out what
he might be good at.

Banksy's background
is a regular,

middle-class Bristol boy.

I think he got an E in art.

He never went to art school.

But people who studied
with him at the time

said he had something
in his art work

that they hadn't seen before.

[Reporter] And Mrs. Thatcher
out onto the doorstep.

Where there is discord
may we bring harmony.

Where there is error
may we bring truth.

Where there is doubt
may we bring faith.

And where there is
despair may we bring hope.

[somber music]

See what they're doing?

[Narrator] The 1980s was
a time in which Britain

was rocked by civil unrest
and economic turmoil

as the conservative government
of Margaret Thatcher

sought to completely
reshape the country.

Tearing up the old
social contract,

Thatcher launched the
capitalist revolution

that placed money and the market

at the center of national life.

Good evening.

Mrs. Thatcher has said it again.

Her government intends to
see its economic policy

through to a conclusion.

Industries went out of business.

Parts of the UK, particularly
the north and the midlands

were de-industrialized
very rapidly

and became like ghost towns.

There was this sort of
almost overnight desolation

that descended on
a lot of the UK.

No prospects for young people.

Some of them turned to heroin.

It was a bleak time.

Bristol at the
time was suffering

from a lot of industries
going, unemployment, conflict.

There were riots.

It was, like much of
Britain at the time,

quite an unhappy city.

It was still that
old British mentality

of Friday night fight night.

And it really was.

It was that kind of, went
out drinking on a Friday,

you had a fight, you went
home, it was a good night.

Bristol rebelled against
the culture of Thatcher-ism.

The idea of everything
having a value, for example.

And it manifested
itself in the growth

of the alternative
culture in Bristol.

And Bristol adopted hip hop,
New York hip hop particularly,

as its dominant subculture.

And it's from there, really,

that its anti-authority
kind of attitude

seems to have come about,
not by design, by accident.

[Narrator] The
arrival of hip hop

made a spectacular impact on
Bristol's music and art scene.

Clubs in the largely black and
Irish community of St. Pauls

began hosting hip hop nights.

And several of the
city's sound systems

started to incorporate
Emceeing and break beats.

The Wild Bunch
sound system emerged

as the dominant
force on the scene,

and its nights performing
at the Dugout Club

in central Bristol quickly
became the stuff of legend.

The Wild Bunch was a
group of DJs and rappers.

Out of the Wild Bunch
grew Massive Attack.

Nellee Hooper, one of
the great producers

of the 20th century worked
with Soul II Soul and Bjork.

It was sort of like
the training ground

for people who would be
defining cultural figures

of the British '90s.

[upbeat hip hop music]

And they were definitely
the coolest guys

on the scene at the time,

and a lot of people
wanted to imitate them.

Being able to put on
a party in a house,

charging 50 P on the door,

hiring a reggae sound system
from some guys down the road

who had some really
big speaker boxes,

and having an illegal
bar in the corner

and filling the house with
a couple of hundred people

was relatively straightforward.

[energetic hip hop music]

It was no coincidence
that the explosion

of both graffiti in
Bristol at that time

and hip hop culture,
sound system culture

especially in Bristol,
both seemed to

mushroom simultaneously

[energetic hip hop music]

[Narrator] The twin art
forms of music and graffiti

were personified by the single
figure of Robert Del Naja,

a founding member
of the Wild Bunch.

Del Naja, also variously known
as 3D, Delj, or simply D,

had spend some time in New
York during the early '80s,

and when he returned to Bristol,

he brought graffiti with him.

3D was also arguably the
UK's first graffiti artist.

He was really a visionary.

He always had his eye
on the big picture.

He would wander around
and paint full-color,

fully-blown pieces of graffiti
in very, very public spaces,

freehand, with
very neat outlines,

very precisely well
thought out color schemes.

It was like New York
had arrived in Bristol.

For us, as kids grown up on
estates and everything else,

it's like suddenly you
started seeing this art form

that belonged to us for
the first time ever.

Like, I'd never
been in a gallery.

I'd never gone to a museum.

And then, suddenly
started seeing

this kind of visceral art
form come out of New York

that was at that time tied
in with hip hop as well.

I used to get the bus into town

to travel around
to see D's pieces.

3D started painting in 1983.

And not long afterwards,
the film Wild Style

was shown at the Art
Center Cinema in Bristol.

How can you call people
that hang out windows,

and watch trains,
Writers, man?

You gotta write!

You gotta do the action, man!

You know, you gotta
go there, rack up!

You gotta go out and paint

and be called an outlaw
at the same time.

[Interviewee] Myself and
a group of friends

sat and watched this
window on New York

and all the different aspects
of the hip hop subculture.

To then walk out of the cinema
and see all this graffiti

with the name 3D and the Z Boys,

which was the crew that
he was painting with,

right there and then,
it was immediate.

There were a number of crews
that started that night

when Wild Style was first shownat the Arts Center Cinema.

[Narrator] This proliferation
of budding graffiti artists

coincided with the retirement

of their spiritual
leader, Robert Del Naja.

Issued with a final warning
by the police, Del Naja

hung up his spray can toconcentrate on his music career.

He went on to form
Massive Attack,

one of the most important
British bands of the era.

Del Naja was a pioneer.

Alongside him, then you had
guys like Z Boys, Ian Dark,

Jafa, Fade, you had Feel
It, Inkie, Nick Walker.

Those, for me,
were the originals.

[gentle music]

[Narrator] While Robert Del Naja

had been a lone gunslingerroaming the streets of Bristol,

stalked by the police,
the wave of writers

who came after him benefited
from the appearance

of an unofficial
graffiti headquarters

in the east of the city.

Amid the social
difficulties of the 1980s

and bleak prospects
for most young people,

a local youth worker
named John Nation

offered up the walls of his
youth club to any artist

brave enough to travel to
the badlands of Barton Hill.

[Voice Actor] I'd heard there
was a graffiti hall of fame

somewhere in Barton
Hill, but my dad

was badly beaten
up there as a kid

and had his trousers
stolen, so he'd always

put the fear of God
into me about the place.

Of course, it turned out to be

the most inspiring stretch
of concrete in Bristol.

And I made a pilgrimage
there every weekend.

What it showed us
was very powerful:

that there was a choice
between compromising

and following your own
strange little dreams.

Barton Hill was an area which
had a terrible reputation.

It struck fear into, if you
were not from Barton Hill,

you didn't go to Barton Hill.


Working class.

Hostile to outsiders
from the area.

Very territorial.

Strong sense of community.

But also, Barton
Hill had a reputation

as being a tough place,
and a lot of that

was to do with an older
generation of lads

that were predominantly
into football hooliganism.

A lot of them were
deemed as being

into right-wing National Front.

Barton Hill Youth Club
provided a meeting place

for disaffected youth
from across Bristol,

kids who were getting
into a lot of trouble,

and channeled their energies
into a far more creative way

through what John always
referred to as "aerosol art."

Two young guys had
visited New York,

and they approached me to paint

the external face of
Barton Hill Youth Club.

Now, at that time, the front
of Barton Hill Youth Club

was adorned with
political statements,

National Front emblems,
Barton Hill Boot Boys,

Bristol City Service Firm
football hooligan crew.

That kind of culture was
what was being displayed

on Barton Youth
Club at that time.

So, we decided this is
something that was fresh,

and the fact that these two
guys are Barton Hill locals

and that they want to
do this was encouraging.

And that really was the
beginnings of laying some of

the foundations for Barton Hill

to grow a huge
reputation in the city.

The one place in Bristol
where you could paint legally

all day long on the
walls of the ball court,

and likely on the
outside of the building.

It was bliss.

It was luxury.

We could sit around,
take our time.

The other thing that
Barton Hill Youth Club had

was that it backed onto
the railway tracks.

[Narrator] Painting safely
and legally at a youth center

was one thing, but
it lacked the glamor

of New York subway art.

The danger, the
rush, and, crucially,

the ability to achieve
city-wide renown.

The young graffiti
writers at Barton Hill

used the club as a staging post

for bombing raids on trains,

buses, and walls across Bristol.

And before long,
their names and styles

became a familiar part
of the urban landscape.

You had artists like

Inkie, Felix,

Turo, Era,

Chaos, and Shab.

I started painting with
a crew called Crime Inc,

and we followed the
template set down by 3D

in as much as we would sneak out

after our parents were
in bed and go and paint

pieces of graffiti
around the city.

And the level of
tagging that took over

in Barton Hill
encroached on the quality

of people's private
and public property.

The auto shop was getting
knocked off in Barton Hill.

Proper break-ins.

They managed to find a way in

through the back of the
premises and relieve them

of hundreds and hundreds
of tins of paint.

Many of the houses that
were on the housing estate,

adjacent to Barton Youth
Club, their front doors

were tagged, their
bins, the local pub,

the wall was absolutely
caned with tags.

There was a trail
you could follow.

You would know that
there was a center

where graffiti was taking place

and that this trail of tags
and throw-ups and daubs

led to that one center
point, which was Barton Hill.

This antagonized a lot
of the local residents.

It got to a point where
the council and the police,

British Transport
Police, specifically,

were starting to
talk to one another.

And they got to a
point where they felt

that something had to be done.

A city that can't
control its vandals

is seen by many to be a
city that's out of control.

[Narrator] In the
summer of 1989,

the British Transport Police
launched a series of raids

to arrest Bristol's most
infamous graffiti artists.

The raids were the culmination
of Operation Anderson,

a yearlong investigation
into Barton Hill,

the biggest
anti-graffiti operation

ever to be undertaken in the UK.

A total of 72 people involved
in the graffiti scene

were rounded up and charged
with criminal damage.

John Nation was interrogated
and pressured to divulge

the real names behind
the city's tags.

If he refused to cooperate,

he would be charged
with conspiracy,

the most serious offense
that the police could allege.

Most of the artists
were convicted,

but I didn't divulge oneperson's identity to the police,

and so they charged me
with conspiracy to organize

and incite individuals to
commit criminal damage.

I had a trust placed in
me by those young people

and the confidentiality
and the respect

and the bond that I had
with those young people

would be the determining factor.

[dramatic electronic music]

[Voice Actor] It might
sound a little crazy,

but I think John
Nation, that shouty,

red-faced little social
worker who made it all happen,

has had more impact on the shape

of British culture
over the past 20 years

than anyone else to
come from the city.

And I bet none of the cops
who arrested him can say that.

So the consequence
of Operation Anderson

was that the majority
of the writers stopped,

which is what the authorities,
of course, wanted.

The other consequence was
that those who continued

went completely underground

and lived completely
outside the law.

So you had a smaller group of
very, very hardcore writers

who were taking on
the authorities.

And it was into this
vacuum, if you like,

that Banksy emerged.

[curious electronic music]

[Narrator] A generation younger

than the first wave of
Bristol graffiti writers,

Banksy showed up on the
scene in the early '90s,

where he fell in
with one of the crews

that had remained
active in the aftermath

of Operation Anderson.

Banksy first appeared working
with the DryBreadzCrew,

which the Loki and Kato, Tes.

He was a snotty
kid hanging around,

saying, "Can I spray
something as well?"

and was largely ignored until
he just hung around so much

that eventually they relented,
and he started working

with DryBreadz or
Bad Apples Crew,

which were essentially
the same crew.

I think the probably
all came together

around the same time,
probably slightly dismayed

that people had actually been
able to be put off painting

by what happened during
Operation Anderson.

But I'm sure it
made a young Banksy

more determined to get
his work out there.

They very quickly
realized that there

was something a bit
special about Banksy

and that this little
kid was pretty good

as a freehand
artist at that time

and had some really
interesting ideas.

A lot of those ideas were aroundthe placement of the work.

Sometimes the pieces
which DryBreadz

or Bad Apples were putting
up were put up in places

where were quite dangerous
for them to paint,

so quite public places.

And there was a reluctance
for them to go there,

because they thought
they'd be nicked,

until they realized the nextday, when they were on the bus,

that it was directly
opposite the bus stop

and at eye level with
the top deck of the bus.

And so, he'd thought
out where the work

was gonna be most visible,

which is a theme which
is really important

to Banksy's work,
is where it goes,

whether it's opposite a bus stop

on a busy main road in Bristol,

or whether it's the Walled
Off Hotel in Palestine.

The placement of the work
is absolutely crucial

to his art, I feel.

When he first started,
he was painting letters.

He was, in all sense and
purposes, a graffiti artist.

Whether he was a
great graffiti artist,

that's debatable in
my humble opinion.

He's gone on to
progress from being ...

a half-decent graph
writer, I would say,

to a totally different
conceptual artist

from the guys that he was with.

He was off the
radar at that point.

He wasn't one of the knownwriters from Operation Anderson.

The police didn't
have his number;

they didn't know who he was,

hence his anonymity was
so important to his work.

[Narrator] Banksy's
early work suggested

that he was a different
breed of graffiti artist.

His pieces often
included social comments

or vaguely political messages.

Highly unusual for an art form

that was mainly concerned
with letter forms

and striking visuals.

[upbeat electronic music]

Banksy emerged during a time

when British culture
was changing.

Following the arrival of
house music from Chicago,

the sound systems and
free parties of the 1980s

had evolved into
large-scale illegal raves

fueled by a new drug: ecstasy.

Shut out of graffiti
by Operation Anderson,

many of Bristol's
underground artists grifted

into the rave scene,
where they continued

to disregard society's
established rules.

The state response to
rave would be one event

amongst several that
directly politicized Banksy.

By the early '90s, the
conservative government,

which had always been repressivetowards minority groups

and those outside
of the mainstream,

was struggling to
maintain its authority.

The poll tax, a new
system of taxation

felt by many to be an
attack on the poor,

provoked fierce
rioting in London,

pit the police
against the people,

and led to the downfall
of Margaret Thatcher.

After John Major replaced
Thatcher as Prime Minister,

his government
launched a campaign

against groups that
he considered

to be socially disruptive.

In 1994, the deeply
unpopular Criminal Justice

and Public Order Act paved the
way for a crackdown on raves.

It gave the police
sweeping powers

to stop and search,
evict squatters,

and to take action
against a gathering

of as few as five
people listening

to what it termed
"repetitive beats."

The new law also discriminated
against both Gypsies

and Travelers, an
itinerant community

that traversed the British
countryside in caravans

and was associated with
anarchism, environmentalism,

libertarianism, and
other radical ideas.

[upbeat electronic music]

[Voice Actor] I got politicizedduring the poll tax riots,

criminal justice acts,
and the Hartcliff riots.

That was Bristol's Rodney King.

I can also remember my old man

taking me down to
see the Lloyd's Bank,

what was left of
it, after the 1980

St. Pauls riots in Bristol.

It's mad to see
how the whole thing

of having to do what your
told can be taken back

and how few people it
takes to grab it back.

[Narrator] Banksy was close
to the Traveler community,

who were a large presence
in the southwest of England.

The Glastonbury Festival,
Britain's annual

summer celebration of
music, peace, love,

and alternative living, took
place not far from Bristol,

and Travelers were a
fixture at the site.

In 1998, he painted this piece,

inspired by hop hop and rave,

on the side of a trailer at
the Glastonbury festival.

The smiley face, the
unofficial logo of rave,

appears in many of
his later stencils.

By the close of the '90s,
Banksy, pictured here

during a trip to visit the
left-wing Zapatista rebels

in Mexico, had become an artist

for whom message was
as important as image.

Certainly in the early days

it's that very
kind of simplistic,

left-wing attitude of
most of the Travelers,

which, I'm a lifelong
Labour supporter,

but I can't stand
that Traveling scene,

never could, never will, yeah?

But I can see where bits
of that came through to him

in his mentality and
the way he thought.

He was reflecting

the anti-capitalism,
the anti-authority,

the anti-war feelings
which were prevalent

among the Bristol
underground at the time,

and a genuine belief
that the world

can be changed to be a
better, and fairer place.

[Narrator] At the same time,

Banksy was evolving

Stenciling, a technique
that had notably

been favored by Robert Del Naja,

became an increasingly
important part of his work.

[intriguing electronic music]

Something that, if you
were doing freehand,

would take you hours, and
if you were using a stencil

would take you less
than five minutes

and you probably won't
get caught doing it.

You have an idea, you have
an image, you print it out.

You then project that image

onto a piece of
card in your studio.

You cut it out into like
a three-layer stencil.

You then walk up to a wall

and you stick the first layer
of the stencil on the wall,

which isn't illegal.

And you stand there and
you wait for no one to come

and you spray the first card.

And you take it down,
give it to your mate,

stick the next layer up,
which, again, isn't illegal.

So, it's pretty hard to get
caught painting stencils.

Everyone can understand them.

They're not this dense tagging.

You see them, you
click immediately.

It's the time that you
spend in your studio

thinking of the idea and
doing the preparation

is why I think it's slightly
better than graffiti.

I think stencils
initially were met with

quite a lot of derision.

They weren't taken
very seriously.

A graffiti artist would never
be caught dead doing that.

That's the main difference, is
we would never do that shit.

[Voice Actor] Traditional
graffiti artists

have a lot of rules that
they like to stick to.

And good luck to them.

But I didn't become
a graffiti artist

so I could have other
people tell me what to do.

If you're gonna do graffiti,

you've gotta steal
your spray paint,

and you've gotta paint trains,
and you've gotta tag stuff.

You know, if you
want to sit there

in your stagnating graffiti,

it has to be like this,
well, then poor you.

Because everything
evolves and moves on.

[bright music]

[Narrator] For graffiti,
that evolution dates back

to the very early
days of New York.

At the time that the
hardcore graffiti writers

were bombing trains, work
appeared on the streets

and in the subway
stations that shadowed

the underground culture
of tags and pieces

but was recognizably different.

Together with his
friend, Al Diaz,

a young artist named
Jean-Michel Basquiat

toured lower Manhattan,
writing the tag SAMO,

an abbreviation of
"same old shit",

accompanied by thought-provokingslogans and epigrams.

Another young
artist, Keith Haring,

was tracking the SAMO pieces

while developing his own
form of illegal public art,

drawing chalk outlines
of figures and characters

on vacant advertising boards
in the New York subway

and attaching mock headlines
to lampposts around Manhattan.

Basquiat and Keith
Haring were really

the beginning of street
art, modern street art,

as we understand it, in
that it was taking the tools

and the philosophy, the kind
of ethos behind graffiti

but stepping to
one side with it.

Statements that have more to
do with newspaper headlines

or the kind of posters you'd
see outside a church, say.

Looking at the ideas
of public space

and how one could create art

that would be seen
by a mass audience

rather an elitist audience was
kind of the key difference.

Banksy's well aware of the
history of the art form

and those kind of key
players at key moments.

[Narrator] And for Banksy,
there was no influence

more important than the French
stencil artist Blek le Rat.

Blek, who had first
encountered graffiti

during a trip to New York,
adapted the idea of street art

to the European tradition

of stenciling political
statements on walls.

His project, to bring

art to the public,

began in 1981, when stencils
of rats started to appear

in the streets of Paris.

Blek le Rat's signature
wasn't Blek le Rat.

It was the rat.

Rats everywhere,
like running around.

And you would see multiple
rats on the walls.

He was also painting
homeless people on walls.

And so, he basically was an
artist that had a message.

His message was:
look at these things

that are wrong in the city.

Look at the homeless population.

There's something wrong

that there's so many
homeless people.

They're invisible to us.

I'm gonna make them more visible

by painting them on
the walls, right?

High art concept,
low art technology.

Whereas the graffiti artist
may be the other way around,

where it's definitely
about, say,

this technical skill
with the spray can,

that kind of thing,
these intricate letters,

which is great and fantastic,
but who are you speaking to,

and ultimately what is
the goal at the end?

But if the goal at the
end is I really want to,

say, change the world,
like I want to deal

with these bigger,
headier concepts,

and that's where Banksy
changed the game.

He's taken the best of all
these different worlds:

the graffiti world and how
he operates on the street,

the stencil world in what
he creates as an image,

and sort of this social
activist point of view.

Three different, say,
personality types

packaged into one person.

You have a really
high-profile art terrorist

on your hands, right?

[Narrator] In the mid-'90s,
a British television program,

Shadow People, captured
a young Banksy at work.

The program provides
a fascinating insight

into how Banksy was
painting around Bristol

in the wake of
Operation Anderson

and how he viewed
himself as an artist.

The footage also
showed that, by 1995,

stenciling, rather
than freehand painting,

had become central to his art.

[Banksy] Yeah, I've decided that

I don't ever want to
do a gallery show.

Like a proper gallery show.

You know, if somebody came to
me with a lot of money,

I'd tell him to fuck off.

And I don't feel the
need to go to a gallery

to make my art
feel legitimate.

And yet, if I go to the
pub and somebody says

that they like what
I've just done,

and I might get a beer,
or I might meet a girl

that likes what I do,
then that's enough.

[upbeat electronic music]

[Narrator] By the
close of the '90s,

Banksy had become
an important figure

on the Bristol art scene.

Together with the
graffiti artist Inkie,

he organized Walls on
Fire, a landmark event

supported by the city,
in which street artists

legally painted over
400 meters of hoardings

in Bristol Harbor, while sound
systems pumped out hip hop.

A few months later, Banksy
painted The Mild Mild West,

his first large-scale
mural on the side

of an abandoned building
in the Stokes Croft area.

The mural soon became
an iconic monument

to Bristol's local culture.

I've always seen it as being
a welcome to Bristol sign.

It's actually a reference
to a particular party

which was broken
up by the police,

and it's Banksy's
protest, if you like,

against the police
taking on the rave scene.

We might be peace-loving,
we might just be after

a good time, we
might be just trying

to do our own things, but
don't push us too far.

It kind of distilled
his aesthetic.

Though it was painted freehand,

Banksy stenciled his
name along the bottom.

If you take Walls on
Fire as a comparison,

he was still
painting traditional

mural graffiti up to that point.

The Mild Mild West
made it very clear

where he was going from there.

[Narrator] Banksy's
direction of travel

was away from Graffiti
and towards a career

as a new type of
contemporary artist.

In 2000, he graduated
from the streets

with a small exhibition at
the Severnshed Restaurant

in Bristol.

The show, with its
canvasses painted

by an infamous local vandal,

attracted the attention of
both public and media alike.

[Interviewer] Excuse me, madam.

You see this bit of graffiti
here with the two rats there

and the rat up there
with the fellow?

What do you think of it?

[Woman] I think
it's most strange.

[Interviewer] Can I just
introduce to the man

who actually sprayed that thing?

Would you call him a vandal?

[Woman] Well, I suppose you
are being a vandal, really.

[Host] Graffiti had taken Banksy

to cities across Britain as
the original street outlaw.

But recently, he's
moved to London,

started accepting commissions,

and is now holding a
conventional exhibition.

[Banksy] Well, I'm
kind of old-fashioned,

in that I like to eat.

So it's always
good to earn money.

And also, I'm trying
to make canvasses work

better than graffiti can work,

'cause you can take time on it.

Graffiti doesn't always come
out the way you like it,

'cause you're rushing,
your panicking or whatever.

[Host] Every artist
has to develop,

and it's time for Banksy
to face new challenges.

That show really caught
people's imagination.

People who didn't know his
work went there and thought,

"wow, this art talks to me.

"It's radical, it's
clever, it's witty,

"it's got a political
point, it's well-executed."

I know several people
who bought pieces there

who said it was the first time
they'd every bought any art.

[soft electronic music]

[Narrator] Though
exhibiting in galleries

and working on commission,

Banksy remained active
as an illegal artist.

His street work no longerbelonged to the graffiti scene,

but neither was he associated

with the contemporary art world.

Instead, Banksy was
part of a new group

of post-graffiti artists
who, like Basquiat,

Keith Haring, and Blek
le Rat before them,

were experimenting with newforms of unauthorized urban art.

I thought graffiti was
gonna change the art world,

shake everything up,
and it didn't do that.

It just stayed
relatively underground.

The most success that graffiti
had was working with brands.

It didn't really make
it into art galleries.

It wasn't picked
up by collectors.

And as I was becoming more
and more disillusioned

with graffiti, this weird thing

called street art
started to happen.

Graffiti writers
reinvented themselves,

and you had people
like Cost and Revs

who started putting
wheat paste up everywhere

with all kinds of messaging.

And then you have the
emergence of people

like Shepard Fairey, who
also saw the potential

of just putting posters,

like rock club announcements
of punk announcements.

All of a sudden, these little
rats started appearing.

And more people
were doing stickers

that weren't based around
a skateboard brand.

There was Shepard
Fairey, there was Bast,

there was Foul,
Banksy, Osgemeos.

People using an
opportunity in the street

and turning it into
their advantage.

You know, turning bollards
into like missiles.

And it sounds, like,
corny and shit,

but it was just
something different.

There was a bunch of
people around the world

that were doing something
that wasn't graffiti,

and at the time it
didn't have a name.

[ethereal electronic music]

[Narrator] The nascent
street art movement

found a home in Shoreditch,
a rundown district

in London's East End, where a
new underground was thriving.

It was a mixed place
where immigrants,

people without much
money all could mix.

This whole new street
scene began to move in.

Artists went there of all types,because the rent was cheap.

[Narrator] Banksy,
now living in London,

was a fixture at The Dragon,
a small bar tucked away

in a side street near
the Old Street Roundabout

that had become the
informal headquarters

of the street art community.

Dragon Bar was this
unique, weird place

that was run by a guy
called Justin Piggott,

who was an ex-junkie,

but into art, and it was modeledon like a Lower East Side,

kind of divey,
skateboardy, graffiti bar.

And at the back of the bar
they had this car park,

and we used to put
parties in that.

And because it was
just that little bit

out of the beaten track,
we'd keep it open all night.

We had a license to 11
o'clock, and we'd keep it--

I was serving booze until
three o'clock in the morning.

And I just became
this lawless weird zone.

It was just like a
free-wheeling kind of madness

where everybody knew each other.

You had artists coming in.

You had Faile coming into
town, Bast, Invader, Shepard.

All these guys
congregated there,

and it was an epicenter, really,

of the beginning of the scene.

At that time, Shoreditch and
Tower Hamlets and Hackney,

they were the poorest
boroughs in London,

so you could do
stuff in the street

and it wouldn't get cleaned off.

And then it was
like the whole place

became a wall of fame.

Me and Banksy, we
painted all the posters

that used to go on
Shoreditch Bridge,

upstairs in the Dragon Bar.

We'd go there, we'd cut
stencils, make posters.

And then, two o'clock
in the morning,

when we were pissed
enough, go out

and jump over railway
bridges and paint stuff.

[upbeat electronic music]

[Narrator] Armies of rats,
monkeys, and other images

started to appear
all over London,

a new type of visual language

that became part of the
fabric of the East End

and which locals
came to associate

with a single, mysterious name.

[Voice Actor] It's about
underground culture.

The things that come
up from the sewers.

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 this city apart.

They'd be like, "Oh yeah,

"I'm gonna go out
and paint some rats."

So, "Yeah, we'll come, look
out and help you paint."

It was just like, yeah,
get some cans of beer

from the fucking,
from the kebab shop,

and off on your bikes
and cycle around.

It was just fun.

It was like, really likeinnocent and naive and just fun.

We were literally
just having a laugh.

I don't think any,
maybe Banksy did,

maybe he had more of a
plan than the rest of us,

but I don't think any of
us thought really had like,

we were just doing it for fun.

It was a really interesting,
fun time that was nothing

to do with finance or how
much money things cost.

These guys were just doing
it for shits and giggles.

It was like, no one
at the time thought

they were ever gonna
make any money out of it.

They just had something to say.

It reminded me of graffiti.

We were running
round, stenciling,

climbing over bridges.

It wasn't about putting
your names up there.

It was about putting
your imagery up there.

[upbeat rock music]

It was an interesting
mix of Traveler,

anarchist, punk, politics,

combined with end-of-the-pier,
who were misses,

English seaside humor.

The jokes were easy to get,

and the imagery is
accessible and digestible.

Very palatable to
the everyday person

to walk by and say, "Oh!


'Cause you don't
choose your audience

if you're putting
work on the street.

The work is talking to
people of all classes,

all creeds, all colors,
all religions, all ages.

It didn't make
people feel stupid.

The trouble with a lot of
art, galleries, museums,

I think it intimidates people.

And this was something
that was easy to get,

people could understand, and
felt that it belonged to them.

This is art where we're
not made to feel stupid.

For the first time,
I can like art.

It's that juxtaposition
of iconic imagery

that many times we
took for granted.

You put that over here,
gonna stay this about it,

and then it's like, okay,

now we almost have like
this tension-filled

conversation that you
just can't walk by.

Now you gotta stop.

Now you gotta think about it.

And you didn't
have to pay for it.

There are jokes always
like the sign saying

designated graffiti area,
or designated riot area.

It makes you laugh
and it makes you think

about the issue he's raised.

In Banksy's work, there's a lot

of imagery related to innocence.

There's often children,
there's often nature,

animals, things that we
associate with people

or things that need
to be cared for.

Banksy has a pretty
wide repertoire

of recurring
figures in his work.

The mice.

They're typically engaged
in some weird high jinks.

Apes also frequently appear.

They're often shown
to be kind of smarter,

more interesting than humans

that they will
probably take over

once we've finished screwing up

the whole world
and destroying it.

The kids, I think, show the
precociousness that exists,

the joy that exists,
the sort of naivete,

the fun that can still
exist in the world,

and how children
sometimes are oblivious

or even smarter than the adults.

They're a very important
piece to his work

and really communicate
really strong messages

about where we are as a society.

Then policemen often appear too.

They're shown as
figures of authority

who should be questioned.

But they're also
shown sympathetically,

people who are in
roles of authority

that sometimes they
feel a conflict with.

I'm thinking also of the
two policemen kissing

and that being something
to think about policemen

in a different way, maybe,
than we sometimes do.

He is wanting to uphold
the beauty and power

and selfhood of the
everyday person,

in contrast to
institutional systems

that are weighing things
down and controlling things.

[energetic rock music]

[Narrator] The street art
scene arrived at a time

when the established
contemporary art world

had, to some extent,
lost its way.

British art and culture had
thrived during the '90s.

The conservative
government of the poll tax

and the Criminal Justice
Act had been swept away

by the wave of optimism that
carried Tony Blair into office

and the phrase "cool
Britannia" was coined

to capture the sense of pride

in British culture,
music, film, and fashion.

-Oh my God!

[Indistinct chatter]

It was all happening in Britain.

There was a new sprit,
a new confidence,

and youthful energy.

Britain was swinging again.


Almost like a replay of
the '60s, go-getting,

like we're gonna
take over the world.

[Narrator] The
contemporary art scene

was dominated by the so-called
Young British Artists,

or YBAs, a loose grouping
of insurgent artists

led by Damien Hirst
and celebrated

as daring and
rebellious iconoclasts.

But by the early 2000s, coolBritannia had burned itself out

and the YBA's luster had faded.

Big money had moved in.

And for many, it was hard
to escape the feeling

that normal service
had been resumed.

$1.6 million.

[Voice Actor] The art world
is the biggest joke going.

It's a rest home for
the over privileged,

the pretentious, and the weak.

And modern art is a disgrace.

Never had so many people
used so much stuff

and taken so long
to say so little.

Still, the plus side
is it's probably

the easiest business
in the world

to walk into with no talent
and make a few bucks.

The Young British Artists
had become the establishment.

Hirst started off
as a revolutionary.

He was now the establishment.

[Reporter] Damien, Sarah,
and Angus all showed together

in a seminal show in
1988 called Freeze.

16 years later, they're
exhibiting together,

but at Tate Britain rather
than in a warehouse.

We're no longer
YBAs, we're OAPs.

Art had become glamorous,
become fashionable.

Charles Saatchi's
gallery made it

into an important source
of money for artists.

And something had
to crack in this,

because this is not what art
is supposed to be all about.

And what came out from
it was street art.

Street art was
always really good

at being the little
cheeky chappy

doing that little
thing behind your back.

Oh, that's kinda funny.

Oh, he's having a pop
at the government.

Your older brother
was into Damien Hirst

and your younger brother
who's nicking pills

and going raving is into Banksy.

The art world
completely ignored it

because it's a
populist art form.

And I think the art
world hate that.

Populism isn't a bad thing.

It doesn't mean something
that's crass and shit.

Sometimes it just means
that people like it.

This was like a movement
that became powerful

through the people,
not through museum's

and galleries and curators.

This was driven by a
general love of the art form

by the general population.

[Voice Actor] I'm
frustrated by many things,

but trying to get accepted

by the art world
isn't one of them.

This seems difficult for
people to understand.

You do not paint
graffiti in the vain hope

that one day some big fat
Tory will discover you

and put your
pictures on his wall.

If you draw on walls in public,

then you are already
operating on a higher level.

[Narrator] But whereas
the YBAs had benefited

from studios, galleries,
grants and patrons,

London's street artists
had few resources

beyond the beer-stained
floor of the Dragon Bar.

For Banksy, a friendship
that he had formed

with photographer and fellow
Bristolian Steve Lazerides

soon became key to
promoting his art.

Steve Lazerides was vital to
Banksy's career for a time.

What they did was show that
you didn't have to have

a gallery, be
attached to a gallery,

to be a well-known,
successful artist.

They could make
their own gallery.

They could attract people
to it through various means

that Lazarides was
absolutely king at.

What Lazarides did with
Banksy was to establish

a new way of getting
art to the public.

[Narrator] The do-it-yourself
ethos of the graffiti

and free party
scenes carried over

to the project of
building a system

for the sale and
exhibition of street art.

One of the first installments
came in the winter of 2002,

with Santa's Ghetto, an
exhibition of work by Banksy

and Ben Eine that went on
to become an annual event.

We'd been painting stuff
on the street, and ...

I think some of us had websites,

so we were aware of
an interest in people

that wanted to consume or
buy what we were doing,

but we didn't really
have anything for sale

or a way of selling it.

So, we did a Santa's
Ghetto party.

And yeah, the first one was
upstairs at The Dragon Bar.

A friend our ours,
Marcus, was the drunk,

horrible, stinky
Santa in the corner.

And yeah, we sold everything
for Like 50 quid or something.

It was completely anarchic.

I was walking
through Shoreditch,

from the offices to the
Dragon Bar with like handfuls

of Banksy prints that
would now be worth

millions of pounds, just
taking 'em up there.

And yeah, I kind of
ran it and sold it,

and it was completely mental.

Take over a building
and don't turn it

into an art gallery.

You know, just anti-art
gallery, anti-establishment,

and yeah, going back to
that punk kind of ethic.

We were selling the
multiple canvases.

So, at the time,
they cost 250 quid.

So, Girl and Balloon was
250 pound for a canvas.

And he painted them all in
the upstairs of where we were.

So we had like 25
canvasses laid out.

As he was spraying them,
I was numbering them,

then he'd sign them, and
then we'd take 'em downstairs

and sell 'em as were going out.

And that was the whole idea,
really, in those early days,

was to make, again,
affordable art for people.

[Narrator] And public interest

in the movement was soaring.

Work that in earlier
times might have been seen

by only a handful of people
who passed it on the street

could now be preserved
and shared online,

greatly enhancing the
profile of the artist.

Banksy was clearly emerging

as the most prominent
of the street artists.

At a time when youth
culture was turning

its face against
governments on both side

of the Atlantic and
protesting the war on terror

and invasion of Iraq,
Banksy's antiwar,

anti-authority agitprop
chimed with the popular mood.

The war was very important
to Banksy's development.

The no war or wrong war arts

very much came from that period.

It was a perception that
New Labour and Tony Blair

had let down the generation,
the post-Thatcher generation,

the same people running society.

And Banksy and his generation

I think very much
came out of that.

There's a real distrust.

I think you could see
a lot of the spirit

of that '80s and '90s
underground scene

in a lot of his earlier
political work, definitely.

And that's finally
what struck a chord

with the vast majority
of the British public

who tapped into the Banksy
phenomenon, was that spirit.

He was able to articulate
a lot of things

that people were
thinking but not having

the same wherewithal
or the tools,

or the ingenuity to
say this is what it is.

[somber electronic music]

[Narrator] In the
summer of 2003,

Banksy staged his breakthrough
exhibition, Turf War,

a collection of his
street work, sculpture,

and vandalized live
animals, some of which

were painted in homage
to graffiti folklore.

[Reporter] Cattle,
pigs, and sheep

are the latest raw
material for this man.

He calls himself Banksy, but
that's not his real name.

He's a graffiti artist,

and he believes that
anonymity is essential.

[Banksy] I'm disguised
because you can't ...

You can't really be a graffiti
writer and then go public.

It's like the two things
don't quite go together.

[Narrator] The event caused
a sensation in London,

with celebrities
jostling to get in

and the media crowning Banksy

the UK's most feted
underground artist.

The Turf War show was hilarious.

It was like in this huge
squat up on Kingston Road.

And the thing with
Banksy is like,

even in those early shows,

wherever he did it,
in whatever period,

they were always
supremely well-attended.

It was just chaotic.

There were queues outside,

models trying to get in,
everyone trying to get in.

And the RSPCA was tipped off

that he was being
cruel to animals.

[Reporter] Banksy
fears not the critics

but the inspector
from the RSPCA,

who's come to see if the
animals are being maltreated.

The farmer from Somerset whoowns the animals has no qualms,

but will the animal
welfare man agree?

The artist and the
farmer have assured me

that they've been painted

using animal identification
sprays, which is non-toxic,

washes off very easily,
so there's gonna be

no harm done, even if
the animal licks itself.

[Banksy] It's hard to make
an entertaining picture

at the best of times,
but at least if you have

something that kind of wanders
around and licks its nose,

and urinates in front of
you, then it's gonna make

the picture a bit more
interesting, right?

[Reporter] Despite having a
proper exhibition like this,

Banksy insists he's
still a graffiti artist.

There are graffiti artists
trying to climb into the pound

to spray the cow, and
trying to explain to them

that it wasn't actually
spray paint on it;

it was animal dye.

And then we had a
animal rights protestor

that came up and chained
herself to the scaffolding.

What she didn't know,
that all we had to do

was kinda undo the thing
and slide her handcuffs off.

But we left her there all day,

'cause we thought
it was a good look.

We gave her some food and some
drink and everything else,

and then she quite politely,
at the end of the day,

kinda packed up and went off.

That was the one really
that kinda kicked off

that kinda big show mentality
with multiple things going on.

You had pigs, you had
sheep, you had cows,

you had two vans up
on top of each other,

in a squat in the
middle of nowhere.

It was only on for three days,

and thousands of
people turned up.

This was the exhibition
that established him,

that meant that street
art was a phenomenon

that had to be recognized.

He just had like
this great vision

to be able to put on
shows that weren't

in white-walled spaces
and to show people

that art could be viewed
in a different way.

And I think, yes, on
that level I think

he was one of the forerunners
to do those kind of shows.

But at that point in time
it wasn't even a movement.

It was just us running
around doing stuff.

[Narrator] That
was about to change

with the founding of
Pictures on Walls,

another step in there-imagining of the art economy.

A print house started by the
artist Jamie Hewlett, Banksy,

and Steve Lazerides, with
Ben Eine as the printer,

Pictures on Walls
aimed to bring together

street artists from
around the world

and make their work accessible
to the general public.

I went to pick Banksy
up from Bristol.

He diverted me.

We went to some print place
to pick up some prints.

So it was a stack of
Rude Copper prints.

And I'm like, "What are
you gonna do with them?"

He said, "I'm taking them
to the anarchist book fair,

"and I'm gonna sell
'em for a fiver each."

And I was just like,
"You're an idiot.

"I'll buy 'em and I'll
sell 'em for 20 quid.

"Come on, we can do
better with it than that."

And then he kinda came
up with the concept

of Pictures on Walls.

And again, the whole
ethos of Pictures on Walls

was to make cheap, affordable
art for the masses.

I was always into the
American screen print system,

whereby you'd have artists
like Frank Kozik and Coop

that would design gig posters
for Beastie Boys, Nirvana.

And every time the
Beastie Boys did a gig

as they toured across America,

there would be a poster that
you could buy for 30 quid.

People were producing
these really affordable,

fucking cool, what I
consider to be cool,

pieces of art by people
I consider to be artists,

and you could buy them
really, really cheap.

And the only screen
prints available

that you could get in England
were like for high art.

And I wanted to
try and do something

that was more based on the
American gig poster system.

And that was kind of the idea

behind Pictures on Walls
when we started it.

And again, in that kind of not
knowing what we were doing.

So, we were making print
runs like 600 and 750,

not knowing that that
wasn't really considered

a limited edition.

But, you know, still
went on and did it

and then started
sucking in other artists

to work on it as well,
like Invader, Motoo.

So then everyone got
involved, and suddenly

it was like a focal
point for the movement

about picking people
to come and do prints.

[energetic electronic music]

You know, no one was
earning money back then,

so you do a print with
Pictures on Walls,

you could earn like six grand.

You know, which was a
lot of money back then.

So, I saw it as a way whereby

I could make these artists money

and do something that I thought

was kinda quite important
and showcase their work.

And the first print
I did was a print

by an artist from
Norway called Dolk.

And it was a Labrador
fucking R2-D2. [chuckles]

Really high-brow stuff we were
doing back then. [chuckles]

[Narrator] Although
simple in concept,

Banksy and Lazerides'
activities were,

at the time, revolutionary.

The street art
movement had managed

to bypass all the
established structures

for producing, exhibiting,
and selling works of art.

And as Lazerides established
himself as an art dealer,

Banksys became increasingly
valuable properties.

Banksy's pretty good and
kinda like working people

and getting into different
crowds and different scenes.

You know, Jude Law.

And all of a sudden
Jude Law was coming down

and giving us 10
grand for a painting.

Almost like drug
dealers, at that point.

They were great
people to buy art.

There was loads of cash.

They thought this art
movement was cool.

They understood it a
lot more than the YBAs.

It was affordable.

And we were the cheeky little
shits running round London,

and people want
to buy into that.

We had no idea
what we were doing.

Pricing wise, I just made
it up as we went along.

So, my theory was, if
someone had 500 quid,

they've probably got 1,500,
so if we did something

at 500 quid and it sold out,

next time round
it would be 1,500.

And then it was like,
well if they've got 15,

then they might have 5, and
it just jumped like that.

And in the end, when
it started to get

to like tens of thousands of
pounds, I could only do it

if I didn't say the full
amount that the piece cost.

It was like, "Oh Christ, if
I tell 'em it's 15 grand,

"I'm just gonna
burst out laughing."

And it was like,
"Yeah, mate, it's 15."

We made it quite difficult
for people to buy pieces.

And like I said, it was
like, I had no plan.

I never wanted to
open a gallery.

It was just, we just
made it up. [chuckles]

[curious electronic music]

That winter, Banksy
entered Tate Britain,

placed a painting on the wall,

and walked into
the history books.

With the incursions in
museums and galleries

and other stunts that followed,

Banksy pioneered a new type
of illegal performance art,

and, in doing so, he
began to transcend

the street art scene.

What really set him up was
his interventions in galleries

in New York, London, and Paris.

That suddenly gave him the
publicity that was needed

to make him into an artist
that everyone knew who he was.

Careful planning.

Those were almost
like a bank job.

You know, you'd sit
and plan it out,

work out how it was gonna work.

If you think that he took
a box that was this size,

with a freeze-dried rat in it,

drilled into the wall
in the middle of the day

in the Natural History
Museum during half term,

and put this piece
up on the wall.

It's not just Banksy;
there is a team,

although it's Banksy
who's got to face up

to putting a picture on the wall

and possibly getting arrested.

One of the gallery
invasions, some of his team

staged a sort of gay
tiff, an argument going on

so that there was a disturbance,

which allowed Banksy to go
an put a picture on the wall.

Once they'd set
things in motion,

I was always maybe like
20, 30, 50 feet away

kind of photographing

thinking there's
nothing I can do

to tip them off or stop it if
they're about to get caught.

To focus attention on
somebody who was anonymous,

and so you've got a
dilemma there immediately.

It also confirmed hisrelationship with the art world,

as being an outside,
as someone has not,

didn't have access to galleries.

It owes a lot to graffiti,
going into Disneyland

and handcuffing a Guantanamo
prisoner to the railings

and getting out
without getting caught.

The stakes are much higher, andthe audience is much bigger.

But the thinking is
largely the same, I think.

I think Banksy was becoming a
different kind of an artist.

He became this sort of
hybrid street artist,

social activist, ad hacker,
graffiti guy all into one.

[intriguing music]

[Narrator] In 2005,
Banksy embarked

on his most eye-catching
project yet.

Accompanied by Ben Eine, he
traveled to the Middle East

to paint the West Bank barrier.

A controversial wall erected
by the Israeli government,

the barrier separated the
Palestinian territories

from Israel and was felt by
many to be a supreme injustice

aimed at annexing
Palestinian land

and subjugating the population.


In traveling to Palestine,

a territory under
military occupation,

Banksy combined his
flair for highly-planned,

audacious and risky
stunts with his use

of striking imagery and
sense of social mission.

The collection of
paintings that resulted

were met with
international acclaim.

We wanted to got to Brazil,

because none of us
had been to Brazil,

and the girls were
really fit in Brazil,

and all of our girlfriends
put their foot down,

said no, you're not
going to go to Brazil.

There was three
of us at the time.

No, you're not
gonna go to Brazil.

That's ridiculous. [chuckles]

So, fundamentally, the
biggest wall in the world,

and it seemed like something

that was continually in the
press, always a problem,

the most religious ...

crazy, insane hotspot,

and the biggest
wall in the world.

So, as a bunch of people
that liked painting walls,

perfect destination.

I think we probably
spent two weeks there,

and we painted a load of stuff,

and none of it was
particularly political,

which is why we got away
with what we got away with.

We'd go and paint, and the
soldiers would come up.

They'd point guns at us,
just ask us questions.

We'd be like, "Oh, we're
idiot artists from London."

And then be like,
"Okay, go now, go now."

And we'd be like, "Yeah,
can we just quickly finish?

"It'll be finished
in like two minutes."

And they'd be like,
"Okay, finish.

"If we see you again,
we get you arrested."

And then we'd
drive like 20 miles

down the road or something.

The challenges were getting
stuff into the country

and getting stuff
out of the country.

Getting the photographs
and the memory sticks

and the laptops
out of the country.

Getting ladders, getting a car,

finding somewhere to stay.

We stayed in this hotel,

and no one had stayed
there for like three years.

I think we did quite
a few workshops

with the local
kids in Palestine.

So we used that as
a bit of an excuse

to get art equipment in.

There's not a Montana
shop in Palestine,

so you can't just get
your mom's credit card

and order a load of shit online

and it turns up the
next day. [chuckles]

This idea of upping the stakes

and challenging yourself
to go one step further.

He's produced some
of his best work.

The work that Banksy
created in Palestine in 2005

was very powerful.

The ones that I remember
are as if the wall,

the barrier between
Palestine and Israel,

were cracked open and
you could see through it,

but you see paradise.

You see blue skies, you see
nature, you see children.

And that really was
such a stark difference

from the Palestinian plight
of what was happening there.

Looked nothing like
what he painted.

Certain people were becoming
a lot more kinda like ...

understanding the way
that the PR machine works.

So it wasn't until we came back

that those images
became political.

And there was the message
behind what we were doing.

If Banksy painted a
big wall in London,

then maybe the arts
editor in the Guardian

would write something about
it on one of the back pages.

But this was one
of the first times

when it actually
kind of blew up.

I think the first
trip to Palestine

elevated him to being
a more serious artist

than perhaps anyone
had taken him for,

because, don't forget,
this was only two years

after he'd been into galleries,putting art on walls.

And here he was, saying, yes,
I can joke around like this,

but I've also got, I've got
serious points I want to make.

[Narrator] The plight
of the Palestinians

would become a recurring theme
in Banksy's life and work.

And in 2007, he held the annualSanta's Ghetto in Bethlehem.

[Reporter] The underlying
message is that people

should come and see the harsh
daily reality for themselves.

And some Palestinians
are impressed.

[Palestinian Man] Actually,
I like the towers.

[Reporter] Towers,
the little towers.

Yeah, the little towers.

-I like them.

Because I see them everywhere

where I travel in the West Bank.

But it's the first time that
I see them in a colorful way

or something like--

I wish that the Israeli
army is influenced by this.

[Narrator] Eight years later,
Banksy journeyed to Gaza,

where he made a two-minute
film that drew attention

to the devastation caused by
recent Israeli air strikes.

In 2017, he opened
the Walled Off Hotel,

a dystopian art installation

that marked the
hundred-year anniversary

of British control
over Palestine.

The strongest work that
Banksy has done in Palestine,

for me, is the Walled
Off Hotel, in Bethlehem.

This is a hotel that
he calls "the hotel

with the worst
view in the world,"

in that it overlooks
the Israeli wall

that they built to separate
Palestine from Israel.

It mocks that whole
Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

You walk in, and
there is a reflection

of the part that
Britain played in this,

with the sort of colonial lobby

with a piano that
plays concert music.

You've got Banksy pieces of
art all around the lobby.

And you then go from that
sort of colonial past

into a museum which goes
through the whole history

of the Israel-Palestinian

And then you've got these
rooms, one of them painted

by Banksy, a couple of
them painted by others.

I just think, as a work of art,questioning what's going on,

reminding people of what'sgoing on, it's a fabulous piece.

[Voice Actor] I don't
want to take sides,

but when you see entire
suburban neighborhoods

reduced to rubble, with
no hope in the future,

what you're really
looking at is a vast,

outdoor recruitment
center for terrorists,

and we should probably address
this for all our sakes.

This guy, who doesn't
live in this country,

traveled all the way over there,

and took it upon himself
to make a statement

concerning a people
that are not his people,

an injustice that's not
necessarily his injustice.

And so, he painted
with great clarity

what people around the
world could imagine

are the dreams of the
Palestinian people.

It showed how powerful
street art could actually be

if you have the proper context
and if you gave a shit.

[upbeat rock music]

[Narrator] The paintings on
the Israeli separation barrier

earned Banksy a
global following.

And in 2006, he opened his first

major exhibition
outside Britain.

Entitled Barely Legal,
the show was designed

along similar lines to Turf War.

It was staged in the
inglamorous surroundings

of a warehouse in
downtown Los Angeles,

featured a live, painted
animal, this time an elephant,

and attempted to bring
Banksy's alternative concept

of what an art show could
be to an American audience.

Banksy doesn't do exhibitions.

The whole thing is an experience

I think it made a huge impact.

It think that it
really showed people

that, yeah, we can do this,
and there is no limits.

We don't have to go to a gallery

and listen to what
they say about

you have a white wall, this
is your space, you do it.

Now you could say, nah,
I'm not gonna do that.

I'll go do my own thing.

We opened.

It was insane.

We didn't know anyone,
so I made everyone queue,

so the only people
that we'd let in

ahead of everyone else
were Dennis Hopper,

'cause he's the only
person I recognized,

and Sacha Baron Cohen.

So it's like we had studiobosses and all sorts queuing up.

It was a huge success.

A lot of work was bought.

The suggestion was
that Banksy sold

three million pounds worth
of art, which nowadays

doesn't seem like a huge
figure, but then it was.

Hollywood royalty was there.

It was a sort of sensation.

Suddenly like everything's
bathed in blue light

and flashbulbs are going off.

I'm like, "Christ,
what's going on?"

And then, next thing I
see is Brad and Angelina

getting out of a car.

Now, they'd not been
seen in public together

for almost a year, so they
turned up to the show.

Suddenly, there was this
exhibition of an artist

no one had heard
of in America much.

And it was the thing to
do, it was the place to go,

the place to be seen,
the place to buy.

[Narrator] But the place to
be seen and the place to buy

was not where street
art had started.

And the success of Barely Legalbrought with it a problem.

Although Banksy was at pains
to ensure that his shows

were light years from thetraditional gallery experience,

they nevertheless
remained art exhibitions.

The original concept
of street art,

images place anonymously and
illicitly in public spaces

as free art for the masses

had nothing to do
with guest lists,

celebrity, glamor, and hype.

Street art is the whole thing.

It's everything
about site, location.

It is a democratic art form.

It's about feedback.

It's all these other
things that happen.


A lot.

But then you have to take
a bite-size piece of that,

and that goes over here.


And so then, does it change?


Can it be authentic?

Not in the same way.

When he blew up
here in the States,

it's because Angelina Jolie
and Brad Pitt bought his work.

That was like, whoa.

Who are they buying and
what are they collecting?

And we should
probably follow them,

because we have no
minds of our own

and we only follow celebrities.

Banksy said it weirded him out.

He said he couldn't
sell another painting

for the next couple of years.

He enjoys some of
it but doesn't like

what comes with it
some of the time.

When I was at the
airport, I saw it

either on the Banky show's on
the front cover of whatever,

like, OK!, Hello,
and you're like, wow,

this has just gone nuts.

[energetic music]

[Narrator] Banksy's
soaring profile

completely upended
the established order

in the art world.

Together with Steve Lazerides,

he had managed to
create a system for art

that was entirely
independent of the galleries,

auction houses,
museums and financiers,

but which they could
no longer ignore.

The phrase "The Banksy Effect"

started to appear in the media,

used to describe the
explosion of interest

in a collection of previously
obscure underground artists.

We didn't engage
with the art world,

'cause we didn't need to.

I don't think anyone
had any intention

to want him to be
part of the art world.

If you think that
most of these guys,

it was more of a
stick it to the man

kind of attitude
rather than, oh,

let's try and get into the Tate.

When did the
contemporary art movement

start taking notice
of street art?

When the press and magazines
were writing about street art

more than they were
writing about Damien Hirst.

And then you see Damien Hirst
collaborating with Banksy.

These people aren't
stupid, are they?

Street art had to be looked at.

Art critics had to look at it.

That it was work that should
be seen as proper art,

not some vandal just putting
up a bit of paint on a wall,

and it should be considered
and thought about

and shouldn't be
just painted over.

[gentle electronic music]

[Narrator] By 2008,
street art was a feature

of urban landscapes
across the planet

and had become the
most significant

art movement of
the 21st century.

The key figures in this
movement were Shepard Fairey

with his Obey poster
and his Hope poster,

which was a significant part

in the Obama
presidential campaign.

Faile, the art collective.

Sort of beautiful work.

Very intense, intriguing work.

Ron English, who
would change adverts

in an entertaining way.

Swoon, one of the few
women graffiti artists,

who'd paste up her wood cuts.

RETNA in Los Angeles,
who was more graffiti

but was very strong.

Ben Eine.

Pure Evil.

Invader, a French artist,
named after Space Invader.

He put these small tiles
in cities across the world.

People like that were
making the difference.

The Banksy effect has
kind of leveled out

the playing field.

So it's like, if
an individual says,

I can't afford six figures
to get an actual Banksy,

but I could go and support
this other local artist

or this other
artist who does work

that they may like that's
similar, whereas 10, 20,

30 years ago, that conversationsimply didn't happen.

Banksy truly believed that
this is an art movement,

and the bigger you can make
this movement, the better,

and if you can make
it a global movement.

And I think he always
tried to position himself

as the leader of this movement,and he's achieved that.

If you think about
it, since the YBAs,

there's been no other
new movement of art

outside of what the graffiti
scene has been doing,

and it's probably one of
the most powerful art forms

globally and has millions
and millions of followers.

[ethereal electronic music]

[Narrator] The worldwide
growth of street art

inevitable attracted
money, big money.

After Christina Aguilera
bought a Banksy original,

the price of his work
doubled overnight.

Banksy auctions at
Sotheby's saw record bids,

with sales reaching many
time their upper estimates.

Having suddenly
discovered street art,

collectors now clamored to
buy up as much as they could.

It was like a new
fucking gold rush.

It was mental.

We put a Faile show
on at Greek Street,

and people were literally

like fighting each other
to buy the paintings.

We did a Micklef
show in Los Angeles,

where we opened the doors,
and people literally ran at us

to come and buy the paintings.

It was insane.

And, you know, I think
this had been whipped up

by the commercial
art world as well

buying stuff and suddenly seeing

the returns that you
could make on art.

When people buy art today,
it's not always based on

what art they're
drawn to personally.

At the highest echelons
of the real super rich,

it's often because
of what is ...

considered valuable at the time.

See, that is ...

part of the quandary.

You're dealing with artists

who essentially give
their work away,

and now you're trying to
commodify pieces of it.

And that is a challenge.

Good evening, ladies
and gentlemen,

and a very warm
welcome to Sotheby's.

The money was just a byproduct.

No one was going out
to kinda make money.

We were just trying to keep up

with the people that were
buying it an flipping it.

So, it was like, well if
we charged bloody 250 quid,

and they're charging
20 grand for it,

then we're being idiots.

But I think that, ultimately,
it's been the thing

that's, at the moment,
destroying the scene,

because I think people are justlooking at it as a cash cow.

And, you know, all the
artists I ever work with,

none of them went
into it for money.

JR, Invader, all these guys,

they went into it 'cause
they wanted to say something.

[energetic electronic music]

[cameras snapping]

[Narrator] The trade in prints

and original canvases intended
for sale was one thing,

but after people began to
remove sections of walls

that had been painted
in the streets

and then offered them
for sale at auction,

Banksy moved to try
to exert some control

of the market in his work.

He established Pest
Control, an organization

that would issue valuable
certificates of authenticity,

or COAs, only to
certain of his works,

leaving the remainder
difficult to sell.

What does that artist want
to do with it, you know?

And I think if the
artist wants it to be

in a gallery, that's fine.

But if he doesn't want
it to be in a gallery,

that's not fine.

Banksy's dealt with
this a lot, right?

His stuff gets stolen,
and it's an issue.

But I think he's come up
with a solution, right?

He doesn't give it a COA,
so it really has no value

in the high art institutions.

There are still gold
diggers out there

that are grabbing it andselling it on the black market.

I'm sure that'll
last for a while.

But eventually, people
are gonna realize

that the end game's
not worth it.

The pieces that
we sell at Bottoms

are the pieces that
have been purchased,

they come with certificates,

there's a very traceable element

of a traceable history,
if you like, to them.

So, absolutely not
encouraging people

to remove the pieces from walls.

Street pieces are street pieces.

They were created and gifted

to whatever city they're in.

I think takin' 'em off the
street is morally wrong.

They were created for the
people to get enjoyment from,

not for like one guy to
go an pay someone 50 grand

to chop his wall
off and then try

and sell it to a billionaire.

It's wrong.

[Narrator] Nevertheless,
that billionaires

were interested at all showed
how far graffiti had come.

In 2008, Banksy held
the Cans Festival

in a tunnel under
London's Waterloo Station.

A celebration of the movement,
over 40 of the world's

most famous street artists
were invited to participate.

With an estimated 30,000
people queuing to get in

over the May bank holiday.

A year later,
Banksy returned home

to stage Banksy
vs. Bristol Museum,

his largest exhibition to date.

The show was organized
in partnership

with Bristol's city council,

once enthusiastic participants
in Operation Anderson

and scourge of Bristol's
graffiti artists.

Banksy's fantasy, that the
rats, the powerless losers

might one day get some good
equipment and take over

had finally been realized.

For me, the best of
Bansky's exhibitions

is Banksy vs. the
Bristol Museum.

This was a museum
that was not getting

a great deal of support
from Bristolians.

But than Banksy started hanginghis work next to pieces,

and suddenly the
museum came to life.

What was so outstanding to me
was the way it expanded art.

It brought in people who never

would have gone to that museum,

who were seeing work that
existed in their city

that they probably
knew nothing about,

quite apart from Banksy.

And, of course, it was Banksy.

It encouraged people
to explore the museum

and look at the collection
in ways they hadn't before.

Putting a sex toy in
amongst the stalactites

and stalagmites, and
putting a pipe with weed

in amongst the collection of
ceramics, all those things.

I followed this
elderly couple around,

and I was struck by the
fact they were laughing.

And it's not very often
you hear people laugh

in art shows and museums.

Putting a cordon around
the gypsy caravan,

it made a serious
point about Travelers

and the plight of
Travelers in the way

that that caravan that's
been in Bristol Museum

for many, many years has
never been able to do,

just changing and
flipping the context.

The combination of
the animatronics,

the interventions in
the museum itself,

the large-scale models
like the ice cream van

and the gallery space
which is always used

as a gallery space in the
museum being used as a kind of

a retrospective, complete
with a mock-up of his studio.

It was a really bold statement
about where he'd got to.

And to do it in
Bristol was great.

It was really good for Bristol.

[Narrator] The concept
of popularizing art,

making it accessible
to the public

by rethinking the context,

started to inform
much of Banksy's work,

which moved away from the
amusing street stencils

and into landmark
artistic statements

along the lines
of Bristol Museum.

In 2015, he opened Dismaland
in Weston-super-Mare,

a seafront holiday resort
not far from Bristol

that had fallen on hard times.

Billed as a bemusement
park, Dismaland was visited

by over 150,000 people
in little over a month,

all of whom had come to
see an art exhibition

reimagined as a drab, miserable,and hostile amusement park.

Dismaland was a legacy of
the museum show, I think.

It exemplified so much
of what Banksy's about:

the humor, the
quality, the ambition.

It was also partly about
the artists he really liked.

He had 60 other artists
exhibiting there.

What was interesting
was that they came

from across the world from
where Banksy had met them,

so you had Palestinians
and you had Israelis.

Everyone was seeing art
they'd never seen before.

There were all kinds of
things going on there.

The union banners, the squattingand housing action groups

which were represented
there, the annexist groups

which were represented there,
it was a wonderful thing.

I don't think any of
us really expected him

to create something quite
as magnificent as Dismaland.

It's as if Jeff Koons
was a graffiti writer.


And he had the resources to do

whatever the fuck
he wanted to do.

Well, that was Banksy.

In his core, he was still
a street graffiti guy

who understood
communication to the masses.

High production value
for the common man.

He's become the people's
favorite artist.

He is more, though, than
just a people's artist;

he's an artist who isquestioning the whole art scene,

which we are all
part of, actually,

and the whole money for art,
and the whole glamor for art,

and the way art is being used

as more than just
pictures on walls.

And it's that questioning
and that clever questioning

that I think is important.

[Narrator] Those questions
surface persistently

in Banksy's art.

His 2010 documentary film,
Exit Through the Gift Shop,

explored how art is marketed

by transforming a clothes shop
owner named Thierry Guetta

into a celebrated street artist

from whom people
were prepared to buy

millions of dollars of his work,

irrespective of its quality.

Conversely, a stall
that Banksy set up

in New York's Central
Park, offering his work

for $60 a piece failed
to do much business.

Without the art
industry to hype them,

the canvases were
largely ignored.

A tourist from New Zealand
who purchased two pieces

at the stall was later able
to sell them for $125,000.

Through it all, he's able to
make us laugh at ourselves,

this machine of the art world,

and I think also
laugh at himself.

[Narrator] This type
of performance art

was as much commentary
on what Banksy had become

as it was on the art economy.

With his status as the
world's most famous artist,

Banksy was now inescapably part

of the over-inflated,
commercialism, fashion,

and celebrity of the
mainstream art world.

In a rare interview,
he openly wondered

whether he had become
part of the problem.

His celebrity was enhanced
by his much-prized anonymity,

a further paradox
that reached back

to the early days of graffiti,
in which the writers

sought citywide fame

and yet carefully
hid their real names.

Ever since he was
filmed at Tate Britain,

the public had been able to
associate the name Banksy

with a real figure, not
just an army of rats

and monkeys stamped
across British walls.

And yet, his true identity
remained out of reach.

For some, the hunt for
Banksy became an obsession.

Journalists, academics,
and amateur detectives

scoured public
records, business data,

and archives in Bristol.

Some even mapped the
appearance of Banksy's pieces

around the globe, correlating
them with Massive Attack

performances and
confidently announcing

that Banksy had been none other

than Robert Del Naja all along.

Others concluded that
Banksy was a phantom,

that whoever he
might have once been,

the name and mystery
were now just part

of a well-designed
publicity campaign.

Perhaps this was the
point about street art,

a democratic force
started by kids

with nothing but marker
pens and spray cans.

The world's most famous
artist could be anyone.

The anonymity with
Banksy was never

a kind of marketing
thing for him.

I think it was self-preservationrather than self-promotion.

And I think it just became
so ingrained in his soul

that I don't think
he'll ever go.

It adds a mystery, an aura.

You can't really divorce
that from the work, I think,

in how it's understood.

It's a great story to
now know who he is.

Even when people know who he is,

they don't want
to know who he is.

It's a better story not to know.

The theories sort
of go on and on.

Researchers can spend
days, weeks, years

deciding this proves
it's someone else.

This is part of the game.

[Narrator] In 2018, Sotheby's
auctioned Girl with Balloon,

a work originally conceived
as cheap art for the masses.

[Auctioneer] 200,000.

[Narrator] It's final
price was 1,042,000 pounds,

a figure that had
been driven ever higher

in part to the enduring mystery

surrounding the world's
most famous artist

and the persistent question
of who he might be.

[bangs gavel]


As the gavel came down,

and London's elite
started to applaud,

the public finally
received their answer.


He was a vandal.


[Auctioneer] Ladies
and gentlemen,

we are in the middle here.

Sorry, if I could
have your attention.

[energetic rock music]