People have been trying to figure out who Banksy is since the 1990s.
We don’t know if Banksy is a man or a woman, old or young, or even a single person. In fact, we’ll have to use the pronoun “they” for now.
What we do know is that the latest theory on Banksy’s identity springs from the mind of Scottish journalist Craig Williams. In an investigative piece for Transmission Glasgow, Williams traced the tour maps of English trip-hop band Massive Attack.
Banksy-style graffiti had a habit of popping up in the very cities Massive Attack was playing in, right around the time the band was in town. Williams floats the theory that a group of artists follows the band, stenciling pieces wherever they stop. However, there’s another branch of this theory.
What if Banksy is just one person: Massive Attack co-founder Robert Del Naja?
The connections are there. Del Naja got his start as a graffiti artist, and he and Banksy are said to be friends. Banksy even wrote the forward to an art book called 3D & the Art of Massive Attack (Del Naja wrote graffiti under the name 3D before founding the band).
“When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard,” Banksy wrote. “3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been a good thing for him, but was a big loss for the city.”
This is compelling, but it’s hardly a smoking gun. However, a drum-and-bass star might have added weight to the theory in a recent interview on the Distraction Pieces
DJ Goldie showed up on the podcast to talk to the host, Scroobius Pip. Goldie started speaking about the problematic intersection between art and commerce and, inevitably, the conversation turned to Banksy.
“Give me a bubble letter and put it on a T-shirt and write “Banksy” on it and we’re sorted,” Goldie said. “We can sell it now. No disrespect to Robert, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over.”
After this (potential) slip of the tongue, Goldie changed the subject. The interview veered into a discussion of jazz. Still, many listeners thought they heard the confirmation they needed.
It’s possible that Goldie was referring to Robert Del Naja. The two did know each other. In fact, they came up together in the rich graffiti scene of 1980s England. Still, there’s no way to know for sure who Banksy is until Banksy tells us personally. Something tells us that’s not going to happen for a long, long time—maybe not until graffiti is decriminalized, if then.
Besides, do we really want to know who Banksy is? The mystery is part of the appeal. Identifying Banksy would be like discovering Atlantis. Sure, it’d be cool, but a crucial part of the story would be over forever.
As long as the artist’s intricate stencil work keeps showing up somewhere, we won’t ask for more.