The best visual artist of the decade is: Banksy

This December we asked you to pick your favourite arts since Arts Award began in 2005! Today, we reveal Banksy as the best visual artist.

The best visual artist of the decade is: Banksy

Banksy actually started making work long before his profile grew, first graffing back in the early 90s. At the time he was your standard street artist (if there was such a term then) in Bristol, with big links to the underground scene and little influence on the contemporary art world. The friendship that he struck up with Steve Lazarides at this point became a big factor in his current status, and indeed with Lazarides' own success - they did pretty well together via sales from Lazarides Gallery and dealership until they parted ways in 2009.

Banksy's image began to boom in the early noughties, following big solo exhibitions in LA, and most importantly, the beginnings of interest from the art world.

His Barely Legal exhibition in 2006 set off a celebrity following - Christina Aguilera bought an original of Queen Victoria - and he began to be recognised by the prime art market. Sotheby's sold some Kate Moss works at the end of the year for £50,400, going for three times their estimated value.

Not only did the art world begin to buy Banksy's work at this time, collectors starting to take street art overall more seriously. Works were pulled from their streets and flogged, trendy hotels were placed around the walls that housed his work, houses found their values shooting up, the artist having added his creations to their outer edges years before. The Banksy Effect, as it became known, had an influence on the market that many may now regret, rushing to invest in Banksy's contemporaries who are now worth very little - the bubble burst for much commercial street art a few years later, but Banksy still has a pretty good foothold.

In 2010, he released a documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop (premiering at Sundance and earning an Academy Award nomination).

Over the last five years he has been, well, being Banksy. There might not be the same desperate rush to purchase his work - the art world gets bored easily - and he could - ahem - be accused of being a bit of a one trick pony. But his popularity lies with the public, the people he has always claimed to care about the most.

This year he opened Dismaland in the UK, doing exactly what it said on the tin - a dismal theme park. Crowds flocked, media chirped and it was deemed a resounding success.

Some aren't so keen. Charlie Brooker claimed '...his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots', a comment topped by the ever sharp-tongued Brian Sewell: 'Banksy should have been put down at birth. It's no good as art, drawing or painting. His work has no virtue. It's merely the sheer scale of his impudence that has given him so much publicity.'

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Banksy has made an impact...and we still don't even know who he actually is.

If you like Banksy you might also enjoy…

Blek le Rat

Banksy has often been accused of stealing the style of French artist Blek le Rat, described by some as the Father of Stencil Graffiti.

Mr Brainwash


Main Image courtesy Lord Jim via Flickr


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