Who is Banksy and where can you find his best street art?

Graffiti that has appeared on a wall in Vale Street, Bristol
The latest Banksy? New mural in Totterdown, Bristol (Picture: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire)

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’.

In July, he debuted another coronavirus-inspired piece on the London Tube. A Nottingham artwork popped up earlier in 2020, too.

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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.

A Banksy street art mural featuring two male, uniformed British police officers embraced in a kiss
One of Banksy’s iconic murals (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)

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.

Robert Del Naja of the band Massive Attack performing on stage, with a microphone to his lips and holding a headphone to his ear
Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack has denied claims that he is Banksy (Picture: Brian Rasic/WireImage)

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.

Street artist James Ame, stood before an unfinished work, was briefly thought to be Banksy
Street artist James Ame was once thought to be Banksy (Picture: SWNS)

Where are Banksy’s best street art murals?

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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… 

A blue and yellow Banksy mural depicting Brexit. The yellow stars of the EU flag are being chipped away by a painter
‘A Banksy’ near the tunnel in Dover after the vote for Brexit (Picture: Getty )
Banksy paints Bridge Farm Primary Bristol wall as 'present' Credit: SWNS. GV of the new Banksy mural at the Bridge Farm Primary School in Bristol. June 6 2016. See SWNS story SWBANKSY: Pupils and teachers returned to their school after half-term to find a genuine BANKSY on the wall of classroom. The famous artist spray painted a stick-wielding child chasing a burning tyre on the side of Bridge Farm Primary School. It is believed the work is a modern take on hoop rolling, a popular game played by children during the Victorian days. The six-foot high artwork also features a flower and a small house with 'Banksy' signed to the bottom left of the brick building.
Banksy’s art at Bridge Farm Primary School in Bristol that appeared in June 2016 (Picture: SWNS)
Artwork by Banksy, depicting the girl from Les Miserables affected by tear gas, opposite the French embassy in Knightsbridge, London in protest to the use of tear gas on refugees (Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (5491762a) Banksy graffiti art of Steve Jobs as a refugee Banksy graffiti art of Steve Jobs at The Jungle migrant camp, Calais, France - 14 Dec 2015
Banksy’s mural of The Son of a Migrant from Syria in the Calais jungle reugee camp (Picture: REX Shutterstock)
A mural is pictured at 'Dismaland', a theme park-styled art installation by British artist Banksy, at Weston-Super-Mare in southwest England, Britain, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A mural is pictured at ‘Dismaland’, a theme park-styled art installation by British artist Banksy, at Weston-Super-Mare in southwest England (Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville)
The mural called Art Buff created by street artist Banksy which appeared in Folkestone, Kent, during (Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)
The new Banksy which has appeared in Cheltenham, the home of government surveillance agency GCHQ. See SWNS story SWBANKSY; It looks as though celebrated street artist Banksy may have been in Cheltenham. Images of wall art resembling the Bristol artistís style have appeared on the side of a house on the corner of Fairview Road and Hewlett Road overnight. They depict 1950s-style spies, clad in trench coat and trilby hats, carrying listening devices. They provide a perfect foil to Cheltenhamís role as the home for listening post, GCHQ. The painted figures, on a wall surrounding a BT telephone box appeared overnight on Sunday morning.
The new Banksy which has appeared in Cheltenham, the home of government surveillance agency GCHQ (Picture: SWNS)
A Banksy artwork on a security barrier in the West Bank, featuring a young girl being lifted to the skies by balloons - painted all in black
Balloon Debate on Israel’s highly controversial security barrier in Ramallah, West Bank (Picture:Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)
A Banksy wall painting showing Israeli border policeman and Palestinian in a pillow fight is seen in one of the rooms of The Walled Off Hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem (Picture: AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

MORE : Terrace house ‘could be worth up to £1 milion due to hidden Banksy on garage’

MORE : New Banksy murals open in ‘graffiti-free’ area of central London

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Bristol – Metro