Review of 'Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall'

Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall by Will Ellsworth-Jones

banksy_the_man_behind_the_wall.jpg The street artist Banksy is a legend walking the line between commercial artist and graffiti vigilante. In “The Man Behind the Wall”, Ellsworth-Jones explores the beginnings of Banksy in his home town of Bristol where he learned from masters of the “oeuvre” and developed his own style starting with the traditional spray painted free-hand to his now trademark stencil work that allows him to work quickly. He very quickly caught the eyes of the public with people protecting any new “Banksy” that appears on their wall and often even selling the wall thus “taking it out of context”, as explained here. Banksy realized very quickly that he could make a bit of a living out of this and so has put on several shows that have drawn in huge numbers of visitors both in the UK and aboard, particularly the US. Here we are given a bit of insight into a show held in Bristol with the complicity of the local government who still are reluctant to discuss due to the secrecy behind the whole thing and the professionalism of Banksy's team.

A great deal of this book focuses on the commercial aspects of his work where Banksy has tried to extend his control but often fails with galleries frequently showing and selling his work without authorization. Even this book is itself un-authorized as Ellsworth-Jones states he wanted to remain an impartial third-party to the story. In recent years Banksy has established an authentication process in an attempt to clamp down on illegal copies of his work which is a touch of irony that is not lost on the author. Despite all of this it seems that Banksy himself lives a fairly normal life and is not particularly well off, intent rather on getting his message out rather than benefit financially. Often when new works become available online Banksy sells them at far less than they receive in the minutes it takes for them to be then put up for sale on eBay. Bansky-mania is very much a part of his life with everything he touches seeming to turn to gold. Ellsworht-Jones is at his best describing the incredible shows that Bansky has put on.

An interesting insight into the reclusive Banksy, whose identity is specifically NOT disclosed here, and his rise from the street to the gallery, whether he likes it or not. Perhaps a bit heavy on the financial side of Bansky's business and seeming to be a bit repetitive it is otherwise quite an interesting read and has given me a much better understanding of the artist?/criminal? we know as Banksy.

The book has a small selection of black and white photos in the middle of the book which show some of the commotion that has occurred around Banksy.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-08-20

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Arum Press

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 9781781315972