Banksy: the enigma of the art world, known for merging provocative street art with political statements. Operating under a pseudonym since the 1990s, not revealing his identity has been something of a superpower for the UK-based artist, whose anonymity is as notorious as the art he produces.
Now, it may be his downfall, as Banksy has lost legal rights to some of his most famous works. Leading experts to believe he may be forced to reveal himself to save his work. The Telegraph reports that Banksy has just been stripped of two more trademarks for his iconic works, bringing the total up to four. The multi-millionaire artist most recently lost trademark rights for 'Girl with Umbrella' and 'Radar Rat'. The latter is arguably the most famous of his works, according to legal papers regarding the case. Previously, he lost trademarks for 'Laugh Now or Ape' and 'The Flower Bomber'.
Full Colour Black, a British greeting cards company, is behind much of this legal push, persuading the European Union Intellectual Property Office to warn Banksy of the repercussions of his anonymity. The company periodically uses Banksy’s work for their graffiti-inspired commercial cards. His anonymity led the EU panel to suggest that, “because his identity cannot be legally determined”, he has hindered himself “from being able to protect this... art under copyright laws without identifying himself.” The trademarks he was filing were rendered to be “in bad faith”.
His fate was cinched further when some of his comments regarding legal rights over artwork surfaced. Apparently, the artist once said intellectual property laws are “for losers”, also encouraging people to “copy, borrow, steal and amend” his creations.
But Banksy’s representatives, Pest Control Office Ltd., argue quite the opposite. The company said in a statement that his work can be used for any “non-commercial”, “personal amusement” scenarios. But when it comes to taking his art for commercial usage, it’s a firm no: “Saying ‘Banksy wrote copyright is for losers in his book doesn’t give you free rein to misrepresent the artist and commit fraud,” the statement continued. “We checked.”
The biggest takeaway from all of this? The defining artist of the twenty-first century may have to put a face to the fake name. The EU Panel suggested that “identifying himself would take away from the secretive persona.” Could this affect his sprawling career negatively? Watch this space.
images | @banksy