In a recent article by The Guardian, Banksy—the internationally famous street artist who began in Bristol and has spread his work across the globe—was revealed to be Robert Del Naja, a founding member of Massive Attack.
The article brought up some interesting questions about Banksy’s identity such as why is it that no one knows who he is? Is his anonymity a good thing or a bad thing? How does his identity affect the values of his work, both with regard to its artistic credibility as well as its market value?
In terms of Banksy’s artistic credibility in relation to what makes him such an important figure in contemporary art, there are two main aspects that define him: his anonymity and his activism. Anonymity is seen as a trademark of Banksy’s work, he exists in the shadows, hiding behind other people or objects (such as walls) while his art criticises social issues and politics. This form of street-art has become particularly popular in recent years with Instagram playing a big part in that. Street art is no longer something that can only be found on the streets, it has become more mainstream and Instagram allows for these works to be seen by a broader audience who may not have otherwise been exposed to them. One of Banksy’s most recognisable pieces is “Flying Copper” in London which shows a child holding a pole attached to a solider who is wearing a gas mask. Banksy’s use of humor and irony in this work satirises the relationship between soldiers and authority, as well as their treatment of innocent civilians.
As it was mentioned before, Banksy refuses to reveal his identity. However, after investigating Banksy’s work and accomplishments it is compelling to think that the man behind it may have been Robert Del Naja in collaboration with Blur’s Damon Albarn (whom he has worked with before) along with a few other artists.