Few artists make quite the international splash that Banksy does every time he pops up and leaves a work of art behind. Recently at the Barbican, he left two pieces to celebrate a showing of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s works. The Barbican is an arts and learning center in London. Even though Banksy is anonymous, he’s made a big impact on the social media community – and uses it to his advantage when he claims his art in Instagram posts.
Banksy and Identity
Banksy has always been a bit of a mystery, even though he has millions of Instagram followers and serious name recognition. The famous graffiti artist started in England in the 1990s but has done art all over the world. Rumors about him run the gamut from him being a soccer player to his name being Robin to him telling his mother that he works as a house painter.
You may be surprised to find out:
- Banksy has published several books.
- Banksy worked on the opening credits of a Simpsons episode in 2010.
- He often returns to edit his own paintings.
- He’s painted on a wall in the West Bank on the Palestinian side.
Banksy and Instagram
Banksy is exclusive to Instagram in the world of social media. His website says: “Banksy is NOT on Facebook, Twitter or represented by Steve Lazarides or any commercial gallery.” He does, however, run his own Instagram account where he has 1.7 million followers and 58 posts as of September 2017.
Unsurprisingly, Banksy himself follows no one.
His first post that’s still available was put up in 2013 and is captioned: “The street is in play. Manhattan 2013. #banksyny” It has more than 66,000 likes. The image is a piece he did in New York, where one boy stands on the back of another. The boy is reaching for a sign that says “Graffiti is a Crime.”
Since then, Banksy has posted an assortment of content, though his Instagram page is dominated by photographs of graffiti and some written messages – or both combined.
Banksy is known for a few different things in his art: stencil work, social commentary, working with the environment on which he paints, and certain types of subjects, including police, children, and elderly people. He’s very dedicated to the environment and a fan of animal rights. Many of his works seem designed to get people talking about these issues.
Banksy has experimented with a lot of styles through the years, including layered stencils, spray paint, silkscreen prints, and video. If you’re hoping to emulate him and take the art world by storm, you can try any Molotow markers, grab some oil paints and canvas, or reach for the clay and dig your hands into it. It’s all about finding your own style and voice – and then showing the world what you can do.
The first piece Banksy left at the Barbican is a white ferris wheel on a black background. The places where people sit to ride have been replaced by white-outlined crowns. People are at the front of the roller coaster waiting to get tickets, but no one is on the ferris wheel yet.
Basquiat, the artist being displayed at the Barbican, has often used crowns in his own work. So Banksy is paying homage to him by using pieces of Basquiat’s art in his own work.
Banksy titled the picture of the art he posted on Instagram: “Major new Basquiat show opens at the Barbican – a place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls.” The post had almost 100,000 likes less than two weeks after it was shared.
The second piece is of two police officers searching a figure who is clearly inspired by Basquiat’s boy from “Boy and Dog in a Jonnypump”. The dog from that painting is also in Banksy’s work, watching the police search the boy. The police officers are in shades of black and white, but the boy and the dog have the same colors as those in Basquiat’s painting.
Banksy titled the picture: “Portrait of Basquiat being welcomed by the Metropolitan Police – an (unofficial) collaboration with the new Basquiat show.” The post had almost 110,000 likes less than two weeks after it was shared.
The same day that he posted images of the two pieces he did at the Barbican, Banksy shared another post to Instagram. It consists of two images, separate from each other. The first is a woman walking by Banksy’s boy and dog with the police officers. The second is a photograph of Basquiat’s “Boy and Dog in a Jonnypump”.
The post got more likes than either of the other two posts Banksy shared that day, with almost 140,000 likes less than two weeks after Banksy shared it. He did not write a caption.
Instagram offers a platform for Banksy to speak directly to his fans, showcase his art, and take credit for things he wants to share. His shares from his new show at the Barbican both speak to the Barbican itself about their policy on graffiti and celebrate the work of Basquiat. With almost two million followers, Banksy is able to reach far more people with his messages than he would be able to without a social media platform that enables him to connect with people whether they’re from London or on the other side of the world.