Exhibitor in Sydney 2003
Banksy is a graffiti artist from Bristol in the UK. To say he is notorious would be a large understatement. Banksy is a house-hold name even though very few people actually know who he is. His stencilled street-art has been seen on buildings all over the world, and also chiselled, hammered, and lifted from those same walls. Celebrities buy his canvases for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is an art world phenomenon who takes no part in the art world. The world may never find out who he is, but we will all still continue to enjoy his work.
Calling Banksy a Speaker is perhaps a little half-truth. No Banksy did not speak at Semi-Permanent, for obvious reasons he does not do that kind of thing, but he did take part as one of our featured artists in the first ever Semi-Permanent exhibition, run during our inaugural event in 2003. It was an amazing show, it included Shepard Fairey, 123Klan, Dmote, Perks & Mini and The Burn Crew, along with Banksy. We thought 300 people would turn up, and over 3,000 did so. It got crazy.
Banksy himself was a nice guy. We're not going to give anything away here, but he was pretty normal. We even took him to Bunning's Warehouse (a hardware store chain in Australia) for some supplies. At the time it seemed normal, but now, given his global reputation, it seems quite surreal that we wandered the rows at Bunning's looking at hardware with Banksy.
Over the next couple days we watched whilst he, and the other artists, created huge artworks for the show. It was an amazing experience to watch Banksy alongside Shepard Fairey and our other artists putting their work together. They all seemed to feed of each other, watching what the others were doing and getting inspired to push their work further. The results were six beautiful murals from very talented artists. Banksy's was not necessarily better than the others. But his political nature, and sense of humour, plus the fact that his piece was around ten metres long, did make it stand out. The crowd that night were both shocked and delighted and what they came to see.
What happened to Banksy after the show? He did what he does best. He 'Banksied' up the city, stencilling his iconic artwork around Sydney. He even popped into the Semi-Permanent conference to check it out, anonymously of course. You may have sat next to him if you were there.
For the record, yes we have a couple photos of him. For the record, no you will never see them. We respect him and his right to be anonymous. We just hope that he never stops stencilling his art around the world.