It’s been a lingering question in the pop-culture art world for years now: who, exactly, is Banksy?
For those who aren’t familiar, Banksy is an anonymous British graffiti and street artist who creates satirical, pointed paintings — in a distinct stencilling style — in response to societal issues and occurrences. They often use dark humour and specific imagery in their work, like rats, kissing policemen, riot police with yellow smiley faces, and some of their works have fetched as much as $1.8 million at auctions.
In an archived Q&A on Banksy’s official website, Banksy says that they were inspired by 3D, a.k.a. Robert Del Naja, a member of British electronica band Massive Attack, specifically when it came to drawing their now-famous Blek le Rat stencil.
Del Naja’s name came up again last week after a podcast recording, when DJ and British musician Goldie accidentally let slip the name “Rob” when describing Banksy and modern art.
“Give me a bubble letter, and put it on a T-shirt, and write Banksy on it, and we’re sorted, we’re OK, we’re good,” he said. “We can sell it now. We can make it something else. No disrespect to Rob. I think he’s a brilliant artist. I think he’s flipped the world of art over.” (You can listen below, as well.)
The speculation is that Goldie meant Del Naja, as the pair have been longtime friends and Dej Naja got his start in graffiti; not to mention Goldie’s casual usage of the name, which indicates familiarity. There are also other bits of information supporting the theory that Banksy is Del Naja:
- Ample similarities between Massive Attack’s album cover art (which Del Naja as contributed to each time) and the prevalence of stencils in Del Naja’s work.
- Del Naja and Banksy are “mates,” as Del Naja told the Daily Mail, and they have friends in the same music and art circles.
- There is a distinct, tangible connection between Massive Attack tour dates and the appearance of Banksy art — for example, Massive Attack played at Toronto’s Sound Academy in May 7, 2010, and shortly thereafter, multiple Banksy works popped up in the city; there are numerous instances of this happening.
Other theories hold that “Rob” is actually short for Robin, not Robert (as in the nickname “Robin Banks,” which then birthed the name “Banksy”) or that Banksy is a collective of artists, not just an individual.
In the past, Banksy was thought to be an artist named Robin Gunningham, but his agent neither confirmed nor denied any connection. Another person suspected to be Banksy is, again, a British painter, James Ame, a.k.a. Ame72.
Some who support the collective idea postulate that each of the artists thought to be Banksy — as part of the collective — actually work together in secret.
After all the speculation ran rampant following the podcast, Goldie tweeted his incredulity and laughed at people making so much out of a name slip. He joked that he and Del Naja were “on the phone… rolling around f**king pissing our pants.”
An unnamed source has also told People magazine that Banksy is definitely not Del Naja.
The mystery continues.
— With files from The Associated Press