Learning To Love BanksyS

GOD, we've heard so much about Banksy this week. Yes, you know he's the supersecret anonymous world-famous street artist whose identity may have been revealed at last. But some people do not understand why this is the biggest art story of our generation. At least if you love democracy, freedom, and hilarity! Come along then, as we take a brief whirl through the world of Banksy: An artist that does not suck. With two dozen pictures, yo!

Who is he?

He's just a dude from England who makes street art. We once thought he might be the alter ego of fellow Brit stencil artist Nick Walker, but that's probably not the case-not exactly, at least. The Daily Mail says he's a guy from Bristol named Robin Gunningham, who has a Facebook page that may or may not be real. There may or may not be more than one photo of Banksy extant. Basically he's a big fucking mystery.

Why is he important?

Ha. "Important" is a subjective idea. But he's important artistically, because he is the single funniest and most incisive social critic working in street art today; and he's become a celebrity, making him important...to people who care about celebrities. Once his works started selling to Angelina Jolie and other assorted stars, his secret true identity became an item of even hotter speculation. But most Banksy fans loved the guy for his art long before they even knew he was a big secret.

Who cares about his identity?

If you're a Wu-Tang fan, you remember when Ghostface Killah first started rhyming, when he wore a stocking over his face in all photos. It was awesome. People who are self-proclaimed mysteries succeed immediately in making fans who would normally care little about their background start to obsessively wonder about them. But you have to give Banksy credit: any time in the past couple of years, he could have sold a big reveal of his identity to the highest bidder for a huge sum. The idea that he's staying secret out of fear of prosecution for vandalism is a little ridiculous; this is a guy who started as a vandal, but now has museums and town councils voting to keep his (illegal) works in place-sometimes even having city employees go back and touch up his pieces when they get painted over with more graffiti. He's probably just a guy who doesn't care to be treated like a superstar in public. The irony is that, by staying anonymous, he's pushed interest in himself up to mythical levels.

And?

Dig it: