The Best Banksy Controversies… So Far

[Editor’s note: This post was originally published April 14, 2010.] Whether you consider him an overrated prankster or an innovative artiste, Banksy has managed to leave his (literal) mark around the world. Best recognized for his stenciled graffiti, which makes use of existing architecture, urban decay, or political canvases, the anonymous street artist has become a globally recognized phenomenon for his subversive satire and Carmen Sandiego-esque mysteriousness. Ahead of Banksy’s film debut, Exit Through the Gift Shop — described as “the world’s first street art disaster movie” — which hits select theaters this Friday, here’s a look at the controversial marksman’s most notorious and amusing stunts.

The Value of a Queen
Currency notes are just a government-issued IOU — replete with patriotic political figures, monarchs, symbols, and token glorified landscapes — but Banksy gave the British pound a whole new meaning when he replaced the picture of the Queen on several £10 notes with an image of the late Princess Diana. The altered bills were distributed at a London carnival in 2004 and several eager recipients tried to use them in local shops before discovering their lack of value. This is one case where it would have helped to read the fine print: instead of “Bank of England” the bills were marked as “Banksy of England.”