For cult artist Banksy, graffiti "better than sex"

Thu May 1, 2008 8:15am EDT
 
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By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - For cult British artist Banksy, the buzz of creating graffiti murals is "better than sex, better than drugs."

But as pop singers and Hollywood stars clamor to buy his paintings at skyrocketing prices, the reclusive Banksy resolutely refuses to play the celebrity game and give up his anonymity.

"I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is," he once said in an interview.

Quotes from Banksy are as rare as cut-price stencils of his street art -- and Steve Wright, arts editor of Venue Magazine, found the best way to get the artist's friends to open up for a new book on Banksy was to promise not to reveal his identity.

So "Banksy's Bristol: Home Sweet Home" offers a curious amalgam of tributes and critiques -- but the only real clues to Banksy's actual thinking come from quotes plucked from the very occasional interviews he has given on his rise to notoriety.

Anonymity rules. Wright is intrigued by the contradiction: "His mix of extremely prominent, attention-grabbing stunts and near-complete personal mystery is unique, an impressive kind of reverse exhibitionism."

His instantly memorable images -- from kissing policemen to teddy bears wielding Molotov cocktails -- now fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. Collectors range from Christina Aguilera to Angelina Jolie.

But he started out as teenage graffiti artist in his hometown of Bristol in western England, using a spray can on walls, curbs and railway bridges.   Continued...