We all know the name, we all know his work but we have no idea who he is. How does someone anonymous become one of the most famous names on the planet?
Effective Public Relations.
As an artist, Banksy is undoubtedly talented but his artistic skill isn’t the reason people are so intrigued by him. It is more so because of the messages of his work and the way in which they are portrayed. Unafraid to challenge social norms, political agendas and current affairs it seems as though Banksy’s “muse” for most of his pieces are what some may see as the obvious problems in today’s society; matters that a lot of us can understand and agree with, but never really address. For example, relationships:
The piece above, appropriately named “Mobile Lovers” explicitly illustrates the reality of how mobile phones and social media is consuming our real life relationships. By creating such outspoken and quite often controversial art, Banksy speaks to his publics in a real, raw and honest way – something that we are not accustomed to in this day and age. As more and more organisations attempt to place themselves in a positive light through PR, the more saturated their methods become; we, as consumers have become very aware of what is realistic and what is a mere attempt to come across as “relatable”.
In a definition by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. And if you ask me, Banksy is a PR genius.
His most recent “PR Stunt” occurred at Sotheby’s Art Auction in London, where one of his most famous pieces of artwork “Girl With Balloon” was sold for over one million pounds. As the gavel went down on the auction, the famous painting began to “self-destruct” as attendees looked on in complete shock. Within a few minutes, Bansky posted a photograph on his Instagram page of the shredded picture with the caption “Going, going, gone…”.
A few hours later, the anonymous street artist then posted this video to his Instagram account showing how he created the shredding frame ‘in case it was ever put up for auction’.
So, what did Banksy achieve from destroying his own work and why was it effective in terms of PR?
Well firstly, he got the people talking – which is ultimately the aim for every PR Strategy right? Almost immediately, social media was bombarded with images, status’, tweets and stories about the unexpected event. From celebrities to news outlets to the general public, everyone was fascinated with the unknown figures’ latest actions.
Secondly, he got the people thinking – what was the purpose of it? Although he is well known for creating thought-provoking work, the shredding of a one-million-pound painting is certainly one to think about. I suppose there are many ways in which it could be interpreted. As an activist for the people, it could have posed as a rebellious act against the extortionate amount of money spent at these auctions. Maybe it was to give a new meaning to the piece, now named “Love is in the Bin”. Perhaps, it was just purely for the publicity. But whatever the reason, it certainly raised some questions.
And thirdly, whether he meant to or not, he upped the value of his work. After the shock of the stunt started to fizzle out experts began to discuss the new perceived value of the auctioned piece, which evidently got higher, although we are not yet sure by how much. The lady who made the final bid of £1.4m decided to go ahead with her purchase as she now felt that she had a “piece of art history”.
As a former art student, I admire Banksy’s work. And as a final year PR Student, I am in complete awe of his Public Relations methods. It is clear that nothing about Banksy’s reputation is an accident and he knows exactly how to get the right reaction from his publics; that is why Banksy is the King of PR.
Shannon Hegarty – final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-hegarty-594193172/ and Twitter: @shannonhegPR