Banksy perfectly embodies our transitory age, but who cares? He is, most of all, an heroic anti-hero

There is no better commentator on the mores of the modern world than the incognito graffiti artist from Bristol

Share

It's a blockbuster art opening that attracts no corporate interest, and is on no one's must-do list. There is no glamorous opening party, no low thrum of self-satisfied chatter among the elderflower cocktails and the perfectly-formed canapés. There's no merchandise, and for most people it's a cultural event that will completely pass them by. It's a local rather than national event, but everything about the unveiling of a new Banksy painting is significant, in terms of its execution, its content and its meaning.

I don't think there is a better commentator on the mores of the modern world than the incognito graffiti artist from Bristol. As an anti-celebrity celebrity, he's having a joke which shows no sign of running its course. He is a disruptive force in an era of convention, when most public discourse is sanitised for fear of causing offence. And as an artist, his every work makes a statement, designed to subvert the established way of doing things, and bringing art closer to the people. The latest Banksy to have been discovered is, in many ways, the ultimate expression of what we can only assume he is trying to achieve.

It emerged overnight close to the centre of Bristol, and is a beautifully crafted stencil of a couple embracing. They have their arms around each other but, mid-clinch, both of them are catching sneaky glances at their mobile phones. It's an amusing, trenchant and acute observation on 21st Century life, and complements his other recent work, a piece depicting three spies listening in to conversations in a phone box, which was painted on a wall close to GCHQ in Cheltenham.

Within hours of the Bristol piece being discovered - it was painted on a black wooden panel - it was crow-barred off the wall by a group representing a local youth project. They said they'd been urged by a “friend of Banksy” to take the picture and use it as a fund-raising tool. Dennis Stinchcombe, leader of the project, said: “We need £120,000 to keep going and our fundraising appeal has so far brought only a few thousand pounds. Now we've ended up with a Banksy on our doorstep.” Art for people's sake. Beautiful.

Mr Stinchcombe knows the value of a bit of Banksy. Pieces on chiselled-off brickwork in London have sold for £500,000, and the lucky owner of the house in Cheltenham that Banksy used for his recent tableau has seen the value of the property double as a result. We don't really know how Banksy earns his money, but it's probably safe to say that he makes a comfortable living, and, as with any of us, financial stability is a liberating force.

Banksy seeks to enrich our lives culturally and, inadvertently or not, financially. Critics say he is a phenomenon rather than an artist, and it's certainly true that he perfectly embodies our transitory age, a time when public engagement is powered by social media, and big ideas have the lifespan of a mayfly. But, in the end, who cares? Banksy is an original, a product of his time, a subversive force, an inaccessible figure whose work is accessible, and, most of all, an heroic anti-hero.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
William Hague with his former special adviser, Christopher Myers  

Who needs special advisers? We all do

John Rentoul
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week  

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

DJ Taylor
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick