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Marc Leverton takes a look at BANKSY Myths & Legends

Marc Leverton takes a look at BANKSY Myths & Legends

Mention the name Banksy to different people and you would get very different reactions. He is considered an artist, a prankster, artist or cultural icon. Marc Leverton has delved deftly into the iconic aura than surrounds this most renowned of all graffiti artists and between 2009 and 2011 he interviewed many residents of Bristol, Banksy’s home town. The result is a bookful of bite sized portions of the rumours, myths and sheer nonsense that surround this enigma; ‘BANKSY: Myths and Legends.

It is totally left up to reader to make their own mind up when they look through this snapshot of the man who has been called the cultural barometer of our times. He was expelled from school, marginalised by authority, arrested and then suddenly found his work being promoted by such as estate agents, tourist boards and hip art dealers.

One of the most fascinating facts that Leverton reveals about Banksy is that without his contribution to the economy of Bristol, its residents would have found themselves paying more council tax. There is also a story about a couple living in Easton who tried to sell a Banksy original with their house attached for an over inflated price. It is said that Banksy was so enraged by this blatant act of capitalism that he defaced his work to stop them cashing in. Whether this is fact or myth, Banksy’s influence is undeniable.

Some tales just seem way too far fetched to be fact, but they are still very entertaining. In 2010, it is said that 2 pieces of his street art in Bristol; Mild ,Mild West in Stokes Croft and Hanging man in Frogmore Street were defaced with blue paint. The story goes that Bristol Rover fans were to blame after they took umbrage at Banksy’s suggestion that they played a dire form of the beautiful game.

Another myth is told where the artist is apparently sighted at a Banksy show placing stickers on the backs of people queuing up. A contradictory story claims the great man did not set foot in Bristol during the show. Instead he masterminded the event from his secret London HQ using video and a live webcam. All these stories illustrate the audacity, originality and sheer bloody-mindedness of Banksy.

So who is Banksy?  Footballer Nobby Stiles reckons he is nicknamed after goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Was he a former pork butcher? The Mail on Sunday claims he is a ginger rugger-bugger. Or is he is rival artist Robbo? Could he be not one single person but an arts collective? Leverton leaves it up to the reader to decide but some obscure facts are given. He was 36 years old in 2010. He doesn’t profit from sales of merchandise. He comes from one of Britain’s Top 50 Crap Towns (Yate, near Bristol).

The cultural impact of Banksy is very easy to overlook as his works have become so iconic and ubiquitous. Not many young artists have had their work appear on eight album covers. Not many contemporaries sell intellectual property for in excess of £280,000 before they reach middle age. And few are as politically motivated – although in Banksy’s case his attempt to bankroll Ken Livingstone’s mayor election was apparently denied, as anonymous political donations are banned under fundraising laws.

Leverton celebrates Banksy’s anarchic, rebellious spirit and explains the appeal of a man always willing to stick two fingers up at conformity. The artist’s identity is never compromised but nor are his stringent values which challenge the status quo, rampant capitalism and repressive regimes. The reader may not discover the face behind the “mask” but they certainly are left in no doubt as to his motivations, his impact on the cultural landscape and how much he deserves to be revered by the artworld.

This book draws together the stories surrounding the legendary Banksy.  People are moving away from Bristol, from the stories, and this book is a way of making sure that the myriad Banksy myths and tales are never lost to us

BANKSY Myths & Legends by Marc Leverton

Published by CarpetBombingCulture

Price:  £5.95

Softback, full colour.  ISBN  9781908211019

Publication date:  November 2011

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