Dismayed faces at the auction: at the beginning of october, banksy’s work "girl with balloon" was destroyed in london. Shortly after the last bid was received at sotheby’s auction house, the painting cut itself into pieces: a shredder hidden in the frame cut the motif in half – what was left were shreds.
Actually banksy wanted to destroy his work completely, as a video on his website shows. About two weeks later, at an auction of several works in paris, a surprise like the one in london failed to materialize.
The action in london, however, has reignited speculation about banksy’s identity: who is behind the street artist?? For more than 25 years, this question has remained unanswered. In the meantime, the wildest theories have grown up around the british artist: is the singer of a band behind it?? Or a woman, after all, who even runs an entire collective?
What is known: banksy came to london at the end of the 90s. He became famous through his socio-critical and mostly controversial motifs. His art criticizes war, fascism and excessive consumerism again and again. One of the few graffiti still visible in london is called "store till you drop. It shows a woman falling with a shopping cart on the wall of a building near hyde park.
Many believe banksy is a man about 40 years old who hails from bristol. Since last year, some people think they now know the name of the artist: rob. The british dj goldie allegedly accidentally blurted it out in a podcast. "I think he’s a genius artist," said goldie, who used to spray graffiti himself. Since then, two men have come back into the speculators’ sights: robert del naja and robin gunningham.
Robert del naja is from bristol and is the singer of the british band massive attack. In 2016, scottish music journalist craig williams compiled alleged evidence in his blog that del naja is probably banksy: according to this, there is a connection between the tour dates of massive attack and the sighting of new banksy images around the world.
For example, on 1. May 2010 six artworks by banksy turned up in san francisco, massive attack had given a concert there only a few days before. Williams also claims to have found clues in toronto: robert del naja played there with his band on 7. And 9. May 2010 – on 9. Three new banksy motifs have been spotted in the city. William’s list is long – you almost want to believe him. Del naja denies the rumors and told the daily mail two years ago that he is just friends with banksy.
The second "suspect" robin gunningham is a street artist and also from bristol. Already in 2008 the "daily mail" claimed: gunningham is banksy. Eight years later, scientists at queen mary university in london claim to have proven this in a study.
Using techniques from criminology, they created a pattern between the works and locations of banksy and gunningham similar to craig williams. "I’d be surprised if it wasn’t," steve le comber, one of the researchers, told the BBC. Street art expert carlo mccormick estimates that gunningham has a 75 percent probability of being banksy – even though he has repeatedly denied this over the years. By the way, banksy publishes his books under the name "robin banksy".
Neither of the two theories has been confirmed to date – so over the years people have come up with others.
In 2010 banksy’s documentary "exit through the gift store" was released, a parody on the reproducibility of artworks and the degradation of creativity to commerce. The film was nominated for an oscar in 2011. Banksy accompanies the frenchman thierry guetta, who lives in los angeles under the name "mr. Brainwash" sprays his art on walls. Some believe that guetta is actually banksy, others think the idea is ridiculous.
Another theory is that banksy is not a man, but a woman, who even leads a collective of seven artists. At least that’s what the documentary "banksy does new york" from 2014 tells us. Evidence for this is, for example, that banksy’s art is concerned with social justice and that children are often seen in his motifs.
One could continue the list of banksy candidates at this point – or come to the end. In the meantime there are so crazy, so absurd claims that one should really ask: who is not banksy?? Is the artist really richard pfeiffer from brooklyn or an unnamed graffiti artist from melbourne??
Maybe the question who is banksy will remain unanswered forever.