Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall [NOOK Book]

Overview

While hiding from the limelight, Banksy has made himself into one of the world’s best-known living artists. His pieces have fetched millions of dollars at prestigious auction houses. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his film Exit Through the Gift Shop. Once viewed as vandalism, his work is now venerated; fans have gone so far as to dismantle the walls that he has painted on for collection and sale.

But as famous as Banksy is, he is also utterly ...

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Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall

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Overview

While hiding from the limelight, Banksy has made himself into one of the world’s best-known living artists. His pieces have fetched millions of dollars at prestigious auction houses. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his film Exit Through the Gift Shop. Once viewed as vandalism, his work is now venerated; fans have gone so far as to dismantle the walls that he has painted on for collection and sale.

But as famous as Banksy is, he is also utterly unknown—he conceals his real name, hides his face, distorts his voice, and reveals his identity to only a select few. Who is this man that has captivated millions? How did a graffiti artist from Bristol, England, find himself at the center of an artistic movement? How has someone who goes to such great lengths to keep himself hidden achieved such great notoriety?  And is his anonymity a necessity to continue his vandalism—or a marketing tool to make him ever more famous?

Now, in the first ever full-scale investigation of the artist, reporter Will Ellsworth-Jones pieces together the story of Banksy, building up a picture of the man and the world in which he operates. He talks to his friends and enemies, those who knew him in his early, unnoticed days, and those who have watched him try to come to terms with his newfound fame and success. And he explores the contradictions of a champion of renegade art going to greater and greater lengths to control his image and his work.

 

Banksy offers a revealing glimpse at an enigmatic figure and a riveting account of how a self-professed vandal became an international icon—and turned the art world upside down in the process.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For years, the British graffiti artist known as Banksy stenciled his works on public walls, ten pound notes, and inside animal enclosures at zoos. Impossible to ignore, his works became collectibles, fetching high prices at gallery shows and auctions. As the fame of the relentlessly anonymous artist grew; so too did the controversy surrounding his work: Was he a guerrilla rebel or a sellout; a prescient artist or a cynical opportunist? Will Ellsworth-Jones' breakthrough biography won't settle all those squabbles, but it will serve as a revealing introduction to an artist who refuses to be ignored.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Ellsworth-Jones…writes as a reporter, not an art critic…[His] book is at its most fascinating in tracing Banksy's evolution from outsider, spraying walls in Bristol like dozens of other young graffiti practitioners, to international artist with work that "commands hundreds of thousands of pounds in the auction houses of Britain and America." He is adept at examining some of the existential dilemmas this success created for Banksy—dilemmas shared by many outsider and counterculture artists, who suddenly find their work embraced by the very mainstream they'd once scorned.
Publishers Weekly
It’s perfectly true that, as subversive street artist Banksy has said, “Art comes alive in the arguments you have about it.” Journalist Ellsworth-Jones (We Will Not Fight) chronicles the Banksy phenomenon from the streets to the upscale auction houses, while exploring the lively issues that Banksy has raised since becoming a novelty in the art market, one who now leads a fairly lucrative operation cloaked in secrecy. Bound to fuel more “sell-out” criticism, Ellsworth-Jones’s vivid portrait shows Banksy attempting to hold on to the spirit of the graffiti subculture while simultaneously forsaking it. Banksy once deplored galleries as “‘trophy cabinets for a handful of millionaires,’” though he is now one of the “trophies.” His anonymity has added to his intrigue and become a “marketing tool,” according to Banksy’s friend and peer Shepard Fairey. Paradoxically, Banksy has used lawyers and contracts like a “control-freak.” (Banksy prevented one of Ellsworth-Jones’s interviews with another graffiti artist, and through his authentication agency demanded the book be marked “unofficial”). Nevertheless, Ellsworth-Jones clearly respects Banksy’s art, and celebrates how the artist ushered the masses out of “the wilderness” and “into the art world.” (Some, however, will disagree with his claim that without Banksy “there would be not be a street art market.”) Whether a Banksy follower or not, a reader will find this excellent contemporary art story speaks volumes about celebrity. Agent: Melissa Chinchillo, Fletcher and Co. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Provides an intriguing account of the making of the acclaimed Banksy film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’. . . and efforts by Banksy and his team to control and shape the mythology around him. . . . Mr. Ellsworth-Jones’s book is at its most fascinating in tracing Banksy’s evolution from outsider, spraying walls in Bristol like dozens of other young graffiti practitioners, to international artist with work that ‘commands hundreds of thousands of pounds in the auction houses of Britain and America.’ He is adept at examining some of the existential dilemmas this success created for Banksy — dilemmas shared by many outsider and counterculture artists, who suddenly find their work embraced by the very mainstream they’d once scorned.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“[A] thought-provoking, irony-steeped, unauthorized investigation into how a regular guy from Bristol elevated graffiti to a fine art only to find himself trapped in the paradox of becoming a commercially successful, anticapitalist guerrilla artist…. A thoroughly ensnaring, eye-popping account of the paradigm-shifting innovations of a bold and brilliant masked artist.” —Booklist

“A fluent, enjoyable discussion of an important contemporary cultural phenomenon; this book will appeal especially to readers who are fans of Banksy’s world and is an essential title for devotees of pop culture and outsider art… Ellsworth-Jones does a superb job.” —Library Journal

“Whether a Banksy follower or not, a reader will find this excellent contemporary art story speaks volumes about celebrity.” —Publishers Weekly

“Entertaining.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating portrait that elicits admiration for a man who, despite his increasingly unconvincing efforts to retain some shreds of his vandal status, has had an undeniable impact on art.”—The Times (UK)

“A credible and intelligent portrait of a unique artist, reluctant capitalist, and control freak.”—The Independent (UK)

“An accomplished investigative reporter, [Ellsworth-Jones] casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy’s career.” —London Evening Standard

“Ellsworth-Jones writes perceptively about the ‘ethical dilemmas’ created by Banksy’s marketing techniques, yet still communicates the excitement of a ‘treasure hunt’ for traces of his work in the scruffier purlieus of London.”—The Observer (UK)

“What makes [this book] intriguing is a relentless following of the money, and the exploration of the tortured interface between art and commerce.”—The Guardian (UK)

“A fascinating history of a wholly likeable art phenomenon.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

Library Journal
British journalist Ellsworth-Jones (We Will Not Fight…) here profiles the elusive Banksy, a street artist who fiercely defends what's left of his anonymity and credentials as an outsider. Ellsworth-Jones does a superb job of threading his way through the fascinating world of street and outsider art, asking all the important questions that arise when the art world, social commentary, questions of what is public vs. private, and—most important—commerce, collide. What does it tell us about the state of the art world when a self-proclaimed vandal and prankster who became famous for stenciling on public walls and surreptitiously adding his own work to famous museums, suddenly commands six figures for his work, produces an Oscar-nominated documentary about an eccentric camera buff (who originally claimed to be making a documentary about him), and needs a sophisticated organization to protect and provide authentication for pieces previously regarded as defacement of public property? Banksy's work is competent, clever, thought-provoking, and accessible. VERDICT A fluent, enjoyable discussion of an important contemporary cultural phenomenon; this book will appeal especially to readers who are fans of Banksy's work and is an essential title for devotees of pop culture and outsider art.—Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
Graffiti meets high art in the first biographical assessment of a renowned yet anonymous figure. Americans who didn't follow street-art culture had probably never heard of Banksy until his 2009 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, earned an Academy Award nomination. In Britain, however, Banksy-spotting (discovering that the artist had stenciled a cheeky design on the side of a building or bridge) became a national pastime and earned the mysterious spray painter a cult following. The tricky part started when this once-underground phenomenon moved into art galleries and began commanding staggering prices at auction. Banksy then established his own agency, Pest Control, to authenticate his works, field press inquiries and maintain his anonymity, but misunderstandings and scams abounded regardless. Former Sunday Times chief reporter Ellsworth-Jones (We Will Not Fight…The Untold Story of World War I's Conscientious Objectors, 2008) presents a patchwork treatment of a subject who simultaneously comes across as both a likable guy with a knack for striking imagery and a control freak who delights in thwarting the aims of anyone who tries to breach his inner sanctum. Since Pest Control refused to grant the author access to Banksy, the author relies on interviews with gallery owners who sell his work for millions, graffiti artists who dismiss their rival as a sellout and devotees who have stood for hours in line to obtain limited-edition prints. Most interestingly, he spoke to a couple who live inside a trailer that Banksy painted for them: When Pest Control declined to authenticate the mural, the pair fought back and negotiated an unprecedented deal to legitimately remove and sell it, thus subverting Banksy's ironclad control. Entertaining yet inconclusive: the real story of the "Man Behind the Wall" will probably have to wait until the hype dies down.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250025746
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,174,983
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Will Ellsworth-Jones was chief reporter and then New York correspondent for The Sunday Times as well as holding senior editorial positions at the Telegraph magazine, the Independent magazine and Saga magazine. His previous book for Aurum was a history of conscientious objectors in the First World War, We Will Not Fight. He lives in London.
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