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Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall [Paperback]

Will Ellsworth-Jones
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Mar 2013

For someone who shuns the limelight so completely that he conceals his name, never shows his face and gives interviews only by email, Banksy is remarkably famous.
From his beginnings as a Bristol graffiti artist, his artwork is now sold at auction for six-figure sums and hangs on celebrities’ walls. The appearance of a new Banksy is national news, his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop was Oscar-nominated and people queue for hours to see his latest exhibition. Now more National Treasure than edgy outsider, who is Banksy and how did he become what he is today?
In the first attempt to tell the full story of Banksy’s life and career, Will Ellsworth-Jones pieces together a picture of his world and unpicks its contradictions. Whether art or vandalism, anti-establishment or sell-out, Banksy and his work have become a cultural phenomenon and the question ‘Who is Banksy?’ is as much about his career as it is ‘the man behind the wall’.

'Britain's unlikeliest national treasure' Independent 

‘A fascinating portrait that elicits admiration for a man who, despite his increasingly unconvincing efforts to retain some shred of his vandal status, has had an undeniable impact on art’ The Times

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Frequently Bought Together

Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall + Wall and Piece + Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat and if You Were Not You Would Know About It
Price For All Three: 30.35

Buy the selected items together

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; PB Reissue edition (7 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781310408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781310403
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘This is 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)

‘Ellsworth-Jones casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy’s career, from the Bristol graffiti scene where he first experimented in the 1980’s, through the development of Banksy’s trademark stencilled style, to his growing audacity and success and the controlling and sophisticated publicity and business machine of today’

(Evening Standard)

‘A fascinating history of a wholly likeable art phenomenon’

(The Sunday Times)

'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’


'A credible and intelligent portrait of a unique artist, reluctant capitalist and control freak struggling to preserve his own myth and maintain his outsider status’

(Independent on Sunday)

'Britain's unlikeliest national treasure'

(Simon Usborne Independent)

'a relentless following of the money, and the exploration of the tortured interface between art and commerce'


'An admirer yet also an accomplished investigative reporter, [Will Ellsworth-Jones] casts a detailed and enthusiastic eye over all aspects of Banksy's career'


'don't miss!'

(Country & Town House)

"Not an unmasking but an investigative look at the street’s extraordinary rise from Bristol graffitist to lucrative ‘national treasure’ - and all the contradictions that entails”

(Holly Kyte Seven, Sunday Telegraph)

'a joy to read'

(The Independent)

'impressed by this measured account of his career'

(Independent on Sunday)

'pacy account of street-artist Banksy's rise to fame'

(Art Quarterly)

About the Author

WILL ELLSWORTH-JONES was chief reporter and then New York correspondent for the Sunday Times as well as holding senior editorial positions at the Telegraph Magazine, The Independent Magazine and Saga Magazine. His previous book for Aurum was a history of conscientious objectors in the First World War, We Will Not Fight. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
(3.5 stars) If Banksy is now considered part of the recognized "art world," as author Will Ellsworth-Jones contends in this enlightening biography, it is certainly not what Banksy himself would ever have envisioned as a youth. Born in 1974, in Bristol, England, then the center of a lively graffiti "art scene," Banksy saw the nightly battles between young men armed with aerosol paint cans and the police who wanted to arrest them for defacing property, a counterculture phenomenon centered around Barton Hill. He joined that night-time scene when he was only fourteen, excited by the hit-and-run atmosphere which surrounded these street artists.

Graffiti is a "lawless activity with a million and one laws," the author explains. For most artists the "passion and fame...the comradeship, the challenge, and the fear" shared among other artists is what it is all about, and many "graffiti artists" do not consider Banksy one of them at all. One fellow artist explains that graffiti artists "only write their name and do characters and it's a whole ego trip and it's all about us and our peers. It's not about the public." For Banksy, however, it is all about the public and the wider audience he seeks. "[He is] painting the same walls as a graffiti artist but [he is] producing images which are instantly understandable - a gallery on the street that is inclusive rather than exclusive."

Eventually, Banksy abandoned the characters and the "bomb and run" style of his early freehand painting in favor of working as a stencil artist, which requires precision, advance planning, and organization. The designs, many with social messages, can be repeated and installed in more than one area.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good service 27 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought for my son who is a Banksy fan. Fast delivery and item as described. Would use again and recommend as had no problems with service.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The unauthorised biography Banksy will hate 14 Aug 2012
By sinope
Banksy's website has a faq. Q: "What's with the new books about Banksy?" A: "Don't know. I haven't been involved with any of them." This sounds cool, like he's not that arsed, but you can bet that either Banksy or one of his heavies has given this book the once over... and they won't like it one bit.

Not that there's anything derogatory or vitriolic about it - in fact, Ellsworth-Jones comes across as something of a Banksy fan - but my guess is that the reasonable tone and in-depth research is close to the bone enough to make uncomfortable reading.

The book gives a fascinating insight into Banksy's world - and what a weird place it has become. Dangerous subversive turned darling of the hideous art world he claims to despise; hailed as a genius by council officials who conveniently drop their zero-tolerance approach to graffiti when blessed with a Banksy; watching others go to prison while his work is ripped out of context and displayed in high-end galleries. All the contradictions must really mess with his head. Some are of his own making, others completely out of his control.

This excellent book paints a complex picture of Banksy. Talented artist, risk taker, shrewd self-publicist, paranoid control freak... it all somehow rings true.

Best read in conjunction with Banksy's "Wall and Piece," available from your local library if you don't fancy forking out.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banksy the man behind the wall 23 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great book about banksy. Takes you on a trip around London and Bristol and into the graffiti world, to get an understanding of banksy world and the hype that has grown up about him
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banksy The Man Behind the Wall 17 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An insightful look at an insightful artists. When will he come from behind the wall? A good read to all.
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