For those who need an introduction, Banksy is deservedly the most famous or notorious (what you will) street artist in the world today. Though he started his exploits in the streets of England, he is of international renown for works in such locations as New Orleans, Paris, Los Angeles, Melbourne and the Israeli West Bank. He's also a master prankster and pretty much the figurehead of anarchic protest art. I have no doubt he has earned his place in art history. His book Wall and Piece is one of the coolest and cleverest art books you can get today.
There's no question of his technical abilities and his versatility as an artist. How he can take another work of art and redefine it to be seen in a contemporary, socio- political viewpoint means he's an appropriator in the most skilled and respected sense. But what I love the most about his work is the humour. It is sun- bleached wall dry with a strong sense of the charmingly wicked (I love his rats). I like how he makes a point of his work enhancing a location and never detracting. I know that not all would agree on that, especially municipal councils.
And somehow, Banksy makes that a message in itself. The real risk of the work being removed adds a different sense of permanency to the pieces. Don't just pass them, stop and look, really look, soak them in; keep them in the memory, for tomorrow they may well be gone.
Of course much of his work is stenciled and can be repeated elsewhere and any new work is photographed immediately and extensively. There is an irony to the fact they are regarded as graffiti, as disposable when other mediums make his work so very permanent. I don't think that escapes Banksy, and he even makes fun of it.
Banksy is going very strong right now with new things appearing all over the place. Recently he open the Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill in New York and it is a very clever, disturbingly funny and quite poignant place to visit. I don't know if he's a vegetarian or not, but he certainly doesn't want people to be deliberately ignorant of what they like to eat. It's one of the best works of prankster art in recent years.
All this means he bears close scrutiny and further investigation, not as a notorious vandal, but as the leading light to this most recent and exciting art movement. The first real book to discuss him is Banksy's Bristol: Home Sweet Home by Steve Wright. Banksy's home city is Bristol and it's a happening place cultural wise. Banksy is clearly at home there, being the place he developed his talents and coming back to visit from time to time. I suspect Bristol is secretly proud of him and I think they should be.