Perhaps the most famous street artist in the world, the mysterious Banksy has managed to thus far elude the hunt for his real identity. Still, his twenty years in the spotlight have often yielded more focus on his name than his incredible artwork. So just who is Banksy?
The Internet is awash with theories about who Banksy is. Some theorize that Banksy is actually a former British schoolboy-turned-underground artist, while others think that Robert Del Naja of trip-hop group Massive Attack is behind the elusive art. Or perhaps Banksy is actually a woman, not a man at all. Then again, maybe "Banksy" is just another name used by an already famous artist.
Vote up the likeliest candidate behind Banksy's identity here!
Banksy Is A Middle-Class British Guy Named Robin Cunningham
The most popular theory about the man behind Banksy's facade is that he's actually Robin Gunningham, your Average Joe Brit from Bristol. Investigators used tactics most often utilized in hunting serial killers to identify Robin, who is a pretty regular guy. In 2008, the Daily Mail concluded that Banksy was Gunningham, whom a former classmate at an expensive private school said was really good at art.
What evidence do exists in this theory's favor? Some of Banksy's earliest works appeared near where Gunningham lived as a young man, and the roommate he lived with in his 20s later worked closely with Banksy. And a lot of people he hung out with at the local pub knew him as "Robin Banks"... or, "Banksy."
Banksy Is A Parking Lot Attendant
Rumor spread that a parking lot worker at Banksy's British "dystopian theme park," Dismaland, was actually the artist himself. And a Dismaland worker said that going undercover at his own exhibit was just the type of thing Banksy would do. But it turns out that the parking attendant might've been just that - a guy who works in a local lot. Admittedly, people did notice a strong resemblance between the worker and the aforementioned Robin Gunningham. Plus, Banksy probably knows a thing or two about tweaking his appearance to infiltrate his own attractions.
Banksy Is A Big Group Of Artists
An HBO documentary about Banksy suggests that the artist isn't an individual, but "he" is actually an artist collective that works together. The documentary showed the massive amount of work that goes into a Banksy piece - not just making the individual piece, but scouting locations, providing security, and helping keep everything under wraps. Artist Chris Healey posits that Banksy is "a woman who leads of team of seven people," and, although he refuses to name his source, he insists it's reliable.
Banksy Is A Member of a British Trip-Hop Group
For many years, works of art by Banksy have popped up near venues where trip-hop group Massive Attack played gigs. So does that mean the band (hailing from Bristol, a city that has close ties to Banksy) is behind these masterpieces? Allegations have been made that group member Robert Del Naja is Banksy; admittedly, del Naja was once a graffiti artist, and the presence of Banksy art near his band's venues would make sense. But Del Naja himself has never confirmed or denied the allegations, so the mystery rages on!
Banksy Was Arrested And His Identity Revealed To British Police
Two years ago, a report began to circulate on the Internet that Banksy had been arrested after being tracked down by an anti-graffiti task force. Major news outlets picked up the report, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to out Banksy. But they didn't get the chance, as the allegations were seeminlgy false: Banksy wasn't arrested, and the original article was full of holes. The Mirror even outlined all of its falsehoods.
Banksy Is Actually A Woman
CityLab.com has posited that Banksy, usually believed to be male, is actually an unnamed woman. What gave them this idea? The artist has an art background, works with a team, and doesn't "swagger" publicly like other street artists; this, in their minds, supports the idea that Banksy isn't a man. While this argument is spurious at best, they did cite a 2003 Guardian article that gave a tantalizing clue:
"Nobody here seems to know what he looks like. But they all know him. That is, they know of him. That is, if he is a he."
However, that same interview also describes Banksy as a "white, 28, scruffy casual" man. On the other hand, Banksy's art often focuses on women and girls, critiquing women's beauty and behavior standards.
Banksy Is Just Another Name for British Street Artist Nick Walker
Eight years ago, a sharp-eyed New Yorker noticed a cool sketch near a West Village pub and immediately alleged that it was Banksy who drew it. Some have suggested it's the work of another British graffiti artist named Nick Walker, but witnesses apparently asked the artist - while he was working - if he was Banksy, and he responded affirmatively. In addition, a waitress at the pub said Nick and Banksy were one and the same.
In actuality, the two are probably not the same dude, although both have close ties to Bristol, England. But they do have similar artistic styles, as Complex noted in 2010, and Nick does often talk about his famous counterpart.
Banksy Is French Filmmaker And Graffiti Artist Mr. Brainwash
French-American artist Mr. Brainwash (real name: Thierry Guetta) appeared in the film Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary so quirky that people suspected Banksy himself, who directed the film, intended it as a prank. Is it possible that Banksy and Guetta are one and the same, and Banksy was trying to parody himself while not revealing his identity? For his part, Mr. Brainwash insists that he's not Banksy.