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April Fool's Street Art Style: Banksy's Best Pranks

For street artist Banksy, every day Is April Fool's.

For street artist Banksy, every day could be considered April Fool's given the subversive nature of his work. Ever the prankster, the London-born artist has made his mark all over the world with witty, graphic one liners—often political, sometimes just playful. In fact, Banksy's very existence could be considered somewhat of an elaborate hoax or mystery itself, with his real character kept closely guarded from even his closest associates. In February, the internet had a field day when they finally thought his identity had been traced back to a Paul William Horner, a 39-year old male born in Bristol, England, after an alleged arrest in London. The story ended up being an elaborate joke, worthy of the jester himself.

So to celebrate the art world prankster on April Fool's here's a roundup of our favorite Banksy hoaxes and pranks, in no particular order:

1. Art in the occupied territories: In August, 2005, Banksy painted nine images on the barrier wall separating Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to Banksy the wall "essentially turns Palestine into the world's largest open prison," which is why he took to it with stencils and paint, creating images like a ladder going up and over the wall, a window into a tropical paradise that could have existed on the other side, and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.

2. Mr. Brainwash: With the release of Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by Banksy, the world first learned of Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, a French artist and amateur filmmaker who documented several revered street artists for the film, but ultimately ended up being about him. In the documentary we see Guetta's rise to art star status, yet making work so similar to his hero that many speculated Mr. Brainwash was the brainchild of Banksy, created as a elaborate prank on the art world. The jury is still out.


3. Fake caveman art: In 2005, Banksy placed his version of prehistoric caveman art among the British Museum's collection of antiquities. The object—a fake rock with an image of an early human pushing a shopping cart—was hung on the museum's wall for three days before staff discovered it.

Banksy also included a sign describing the artifact as an image of "early man venturing towards the out-of-town hunting grounds…This finely preserved example of primitive art dates from the Post-Catatonic era. The artist responsible is known to have created a substantial body of work across South East of England under the moniker Banksymus Maximus but little else is known about him." The British Museum was able to see the humor in the prank, even praising the artist for his efforts. A spokesman said, " It looked very much in keeping with the other exhibits, the explanatory text was quite similar." Earlier that same year, Banksy snuck into four New York museums—the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum—in a single day and placed his own work among their exhibitions.

(Photo courtesy the Wooster Collective)

4. Bringing Guantanamo to the "Happiest Place On Earth": In 2006 the artist snuck into the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland in California, and placed a life size figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee in order to raise awareness around the controversial prison. The hooded man remained standing, arms bound, in an orange jumpsuit for 90 minutes before the ride was shut down.


Image of Israel wall via Wikimedia Commons; others via Wooster Collective

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