Banksy is an anonymous British graffiti artist who brings satirical and political street art to walls, bridges and buildings throughout the world.
On December 10, a new artwork in his iconic mural style was unveiled on the corner of Vale Street and Park Street in Totterdown, Bristol.
A flurry of anticipation and excitement has emerged surrounding the street art – which, rather topically, features a woman coughing (or sneezing) without a mask – while locals wait for confirmation that it is indeed ‘a Banksy’.
Who is Banksy?
The mystery surrounding Banksy has, understandably, made people eager to find out his true identity.
Though nothing’s ever been verified (as of December 2020), there have been a few rumours, clues and hints as to who he/she actually is.
Of course, it’s thought that Banksy wants to keep his identity a secret, given that graffiti is a crime – but myths about his real name are common, often linking back to the beginning of his career, as well as those who have publicly ‘named’ him.
Banksy began his artistic journey as one of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew. He was influenced by others on the Bristol Underground Scene – including 3D, better known as Robert Del Naja, one of the members of the band Massive Attack.
Rumours that Banksy is Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja have persisted. The performer identified himself as a personal friend of Banksy, and in June 2017, rapper Goldie referred to Banksy as ‘Rob’ when conversing about art in a podcast interview with Scroobius Pip.
Interestingly, the timing of Banksy’s past works across the world is in tandem with the touring schedule of Massive Attack.
However, Goldie may have been referring to Robin Gunningham, who was said to be Banksy by some former schoolmates from Bristol and associates in a 2008 Mail on Sunday investigation.
The suggestion that Robin Gunningham was Banksy was supported by the study of locations of Banksy’s art, which correlated with the known movements of Gunningham.
In an interview with a Bristol community magazine, Boundless, Banksy was asked about the Robert De Naja rumours. When asked if he would confirm the claim that he was indeed Robert, he said simply: ‘No, because I’m not.’
Speculation that Banksy is a group or collective of graffiti artists is fairly common, too, and in 2014 an internet hoax circulated that Banksy had been arrested.
A man in Israel captured footage of a graffiti artist that he believed to be Banksy but turned out to be James Ame, who is ame72, another famed graffiti artist.
The footage was taken around the time Banksy opened a guesthouse called The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
So, could Banksy’s real identity be Gunningham, Del Naja or a whole group of people?
We just don’t know yet – but watch this space.
Where are Banksy’s best street art murals?
Banksy notably creates his art on public surfaces and does not sell or reproduce his graffiti art.
Though best known for his prolific street art installations, Banksy is also a film director. He created the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011.
Most of Banksy’s works appear in London, Bristol and across the UK, but he has ventured further afield and garnered international attention for his witty stencil art and his enigmatic identity.
Here are just some of his best and most famous murals…
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