How Banksy Saved Art History


This book is not yet published, but will be available from September 2024.

ISBN: 9780500027059 Category:

Kelly Grovier


A new take on the history of art as parodied, reinterpreted and ultimately reinforced by the international phenomenon that is Banksy.

Few would dispute that Banksy is the most famous urban artist in the world today. That he is also one of the most perceptive art historians of our age might come as a surprise to many. Taken together, the myriad memorable works the street artist has created over the course of the past thirty years, since his emergence in the Bristol underground scene in the early 1990s, constitute an audacious commentary on the history of image-making – a captivating critique waiting to be pieced together.

Armed with little more than stencils, spray paint and an anonymizing cloak of after-hours darkness, Banksy has forged an alluring identity for himself as an incorrigible prankster who doesn’t embrace tradition, but shreds it. Consider Banksy and you think of grubby city walls far removed from elite galleries and privileged museums where art is conventionally shown. What actually illuminates Banksy’s audacious murals, impromptu urban sculptures and vandalized paintings, however, is a profound understanding of the story of art. He wields this secret knowledge like a weapon against our senses.

Through the dark satirical lens of Banksy’s mischievous reimagined masterpieces, art history is viewed afresh and brought into unexpected focus. From his droll lampooning of the Lascaux cave paintings to his reinvention of Monet’s enchanting water-lily pond, a reboot of GĂ©ricault’s tragic gut-wrenching vision to Vermeer’s girl now instilled with street cred, everyone’s genius is grist for his unmerciful mill. Far from being diminished in their significance, however, the works that Banksy ruthlessly parodies are ultimately refurbished by the ordeal. Banksy’s iconoclastic works force us to rethink our affection for, and appreciation of, great works of art that define cultural history.

Additional information

Weight 300 g
Dimensions 18.6 x 24.6 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 12 September 2024
Number of pages 208
Format Hardback
Dimensions 18.6 x 24.6 cm
Weight 300 g


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Kelly Grovier is a columnist and feature writer for BBC Culture and his writings on art have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Independent, The Sunday Times, the Observer, RA Magazine and Wired. He is the author of several books, including A New Way of Seeing: The History of Art in 57 Works (2018), On the Line: Conversations with Sean Scully (2021) and The Art of Colour (2023), published by Thames & Hudson. He is co-founder of the scholarly journal European Romantic Review.