For someone who shuns the limelight so completely that he conceals his name, never shows his face and gives interviews only by email, Banksy is remarkably famous.
From his beginnings as a Bristol graffiti artist, his artwork is now sold at auction for six-figure sums and hangs on celebrities’ walls. The appearance of a new Banksy is national news, his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop was Oscar-nominated and people queue for hours to see his latest exhibition. Now more National Treasure than edgy outsider, who is Banksy and how did he become what he is today?
In the first attempt to tell the full story of Banksy’s life and career, Will Ellsworth-Jones pieces together a picture of his world and unpicks its contradictions. Whether art or vandalism, anti-establishment or sell-out, Banksy and his work have become a cultural phenomenon and the question ‘Who is Banksy?’ is as much about his career as it is ‘the man behind the wall’.
'Britain's unlikeliest national treasure' Independent
‘A fascinating portrait that elicits admiration for a man who, despite his increasingly unconvincing efforts to retain some shred of his vandal status, has had an undeniable impact on art’ The Times
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.
'a relentless following of the money, and the exploration of the tortured interface between art and commerce'
'Britain's unlikeliest national treasure'
'A credible and intelligent portrait of a unique artist, reluctant capitalist and control freak struggling to preserve his own myth and maintain his outsider status’
‘A fascinating history of a wholly likeable art phenomenon’
'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’
‘Ellsworth-Jones casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy’s career, from the Bristol graffiti scene where he first experimented in the 1980’s, through the development of Banksy’s trademark stencilled style, to his growing audacity and success and the controlling and sophisticated publicity and business machine of today’
‘This is 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’
'An admirer yet also an accomplished investigative reporter, [Will Ellsworth-Jones] casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy's career'
'a joy to read'
"Not an unmasking but an investigative look at the street’s extraordinary rise from Bristol graffitist to lucrative ‘national treasure’ - and all the contradictions that entails”
'impressed by this measured account of his career'
'pacy account of street-artist Banksy's rise to fame'