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Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall Hardcover – February 12, 2013
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“Provides an intriguing account of the making of the acclaimed Banksy film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop'. . . and efforts by Banksy and his team to control and shape the mythology around him. . . . Mr. Ellsworth-Jones's book is at its most fascinating in tracing Banksy's evolution from outsider, spraying walls in Bristol like dozens of other young graffiti practitioners, to international artist with work that ‘commands hundreds of thousands of pounds in the auction houses of Britain and America.' He is adept at examining some of the existential dilemmas this success created for Banksy -- dilemmas shared by many outsider and counterculture artists, who suddenly find their work embraced by the very mainstream they'd once scorned.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“[A] thought-provoking, irony-steeped, unauthorized investigation into how a regular guy from Bristol elevated graffiti to a fine art only to find himself trapped in the paradox of becoming a commercially successful, anticapitalist guerrilla artist…. A thoroughly ensnaring, eye-popping account of the paradigm-shifting innovations of a bold and brilliant masked artist.” ―Booklist
“A fluent, enjoyable discussion of an important contemporary cultural phenomenon; this book will appeal especially to readers who are fans of Banksy's world and is an essential title for devotees of pop culture and outsider art… Ellsworth-Jones does a superb job.” ―Library Journal
“Whether a Banksy follower or not, a reader will find this excellent contemporary art story speaks volumes about celebrity.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Entertaining.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“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.” ―The Times (UK)
“A credible and intelligent portrait of a unique artist, reluctant capitalist, and control freak.” ―The Independent (UK)
“An accomplished investigative reporter, [Ellsworth-Jones] casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy's career.” ―London Evening Standard
“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.” ―The Observer (UK)
“What makes [this book] intriguing is a relentless following of the money, and the exploration of the tortured interface between art and commerce.” ―The Guardian (UK)
“A fascinating history of a wholly likeable art phenomenon.” ―The Sunday Times (UK)
Top Customer Reviews
Full disclosure: Having acquired this book from an online retailer, I expected it to be akin to "Wall and Piece". I.e., I was expecting photos of Banksys. There wasn't a single picture present in the copy that I received. Initially, I was rather annoyed. I became even more irritated when I (wrongly) presumed that this was an effort to identify Banksy. Despite my initial misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that the book was actually good.
This book tried really hard to be many different things. It tried to detail the history of the movement of street art into the museums and galleries where it has taken root (some might say "infested"). It tried to examine the possibility of art appreciation and analysis. To some extent, it felt like Mr. Ellsworth-Jones was trying to do this while referencing Banksy as little as possible. This, however, was never entirely successful. As the insightful (if annoying) Lazarides points out, "Banksy is a once-in-a-generation artist. If he is put into the book, it will inevitably become ABOUT him." And that's without the book really having that intention in the first place, which this book was. Fortunately, on some level, the book is most successful when Banksy's presence intrudes back into the narrative flow. In the end, although it tries to be all of those things, what it ends up being is the application of those topics to Banksy (or vice versa).
Mr. Ellsworth-Jones gets several important things right in his pseudo-biography/analysis of Banksy. First, like any good biographer, he is critical of his subject while being appreciative.Read more ›
The book discusses the motivation of Banksy and fellow painters who deface public property, who make painting in places where paintings are not wanted and the activity of painting those places breaks the law. The book explains - in the words of some of the artists - why they take the risk and how much satisfaction they obtain by sharing their work with others and by perhaps making citizens take notice of what is going on around them. Much of Banksy's work is a form of protest against government oppression, high handedness, over control, and general priggishness. The book also explores the strange way that ground breaking artists become collectible artists and how their work appreciates in value.Read more ›
Secondly, this is what you would call an "unauthorized biography" and weighs in at just over 1.4 lbs with 300 pages of pure text. It's important to understand that this book is not the "we're going to reveal so much dirt and skeletons in the closet that there is no way the subject would authorize" type of unauthorized biography. It's more of an "this subject is reclusive, private, and or unknowable" type of unauthorized biography. Part of Banksy's allure is his anonymity and revealing who he is would be akin to the adult version of SPOILER! "Santa isn't real" and would ruin part of the fun created by the very idea of Banksy walking among us, unknowable, working on the fringe of society to create subversive pieces of socio/political statement.
Ellsworth-Jones did not set out to "out" Banksy, but created this work to explain him and the Street Art movement he helped transform from illegal public graffiti to a legitimate form of art exhibited in the finest museums in the world. In some ways the continued anonymity gives Banksy the continued street creed typically lost by "selling out" (which I don't believe he's actually done) to the very crusty, old art institutions he despised. The elevation of Street Art to a "legitimate" form of art has had the effect that more people, the world over, who would otherwise never come into contact with such perfect and clearly expressed seeds of ideas and statements portrayed in Banksy's art can see them every day.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quite informative, as I did not know much about Banksy before picking this up. However, the writing is inconsistent, ranging from interesting to monotonous. Read morePublished 12 months ago by L. Ventimiglia
Giving 5 stars BC the seller shipped the item quickly and the condition was as described, new. The book itself isn't bad. It wasn't what I expected. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Lanah Bardier
You are never quite sure? Everything Banksy does, raises more questions than it answers? Who is he, is never answered in the book. Is he more myth than hype? Read morePublished 24 months ago by Neil The Unreel
A good overview of street art and biography of the elusive Banksy. I read the first few chapters to my after-school teen group and they were enraptured! Read morePublished on June 28, 2014 by Jessica Ferguson
Excellent condition! Extremely happy with my purchasr and time it took to get my book. The book was brand new and was in better shape than described.Published on June 4, 2014 by Patricia
What of the man nailed into the wall? Banksy has utilized "anonymous" world wide troop of people who have given up their identity to perhaps die for his, Lucas naviera's... Read morePublished on June 2, 2014 by L J
A fascinating if unauthorized bio of Banksy. Raises many interesting issues regarding the value of art and the power of social media. Read morePublished on February 1, 2014 by Sandy
Thorough and fair. Wills Ellsworth Jones was enthusiastic about art generally and Banksy in particular but clearly not beholden to him.Published on November 6, 2013 by Patrick Byrd
William Ellsworth-Jones has set out on a search as difficult as finding the Holy Grail and had achieved a modicum of success. Read morePublished on August 30, 2013 by Foster Corbin