BANKSY is an elusive British graffiti artist whose real identity has never been revealed.
The secretive street scribbler has been baffling the world for years after creating street art using the cover of darkness to keep his anonymity – but just who is he?
Who is Banksy and has his identity ever been revealed?
Rumours have long circulated about the true identity of street artist Banksy.
A number of people claim to have spotted him at work but no sighting has ever been officially confirmed while other clues have been used to try and unmask the legend.
The elusive artist is believed to have given a glimpse of himself in an interview filmed in 2003 ahead of his Turf War exhibition but then lay in a vault for nearly two decades.
The two-minute report, by ITV News correspondent Haig Gordon, features the artist speaking for 35 seconds.
He is wearing a baseball cap and has a T-shirt pulled over his lower face, but his eyes, eyebrows and forehead are visible.
“I’m disguised because you can’t really be a graffiti writer and then go public,” he tells Gordon, who has since retired.
“The two things don’t quite go together.”
After that report, ITV news correspondent Robert Murphy looked into the ITV archives and was amazed to find a library entry with the catalogue listing “Interview with Banksy”.
He requested the archive tape, which has now been transferred to a digital file, from the London vaults.
Murphy then contacted Gordon, who had forgotten that he interviewed Banksy ahead of the Turf War exhibition in Dalston, north-east London, in July 2003.
“I saw his face. The only problem is I can’t remember what his face looked like,” he told ITV News.
“I don’t think I could say a single thing about what he looked like. Isn’t that dreadful?
“He was relaxed, he was laid-back, he was amiable. I quite took to him. I was dreading a pretentious arty-farty type, but he was very pleasant.
“He reacted very well when I made a joke just before the camera was rolling.
“I said ‘Right, Banksy, what will you do if I take that (the T-shirt) off during the interview?’ and he just laughed, he knew I wasn’t meaning it.
“But I wish I had, because that would have been extremely valuable.”
Names in the frame – who is Banksy?
- Robin Gunningham was an early candidate to be “revealed” as the man behind Banksy in 2008. Years later researchers at Queen Mary University of London used “geographic profiling” to match the locations of Banksy paintings to a pub, playing fields and residential addresses with links to Gunningham. Representatives for the artist have denied the theory.
- Robert Del Naja was touted as the anonymous artist in 2017 when Bristol DJ Goldie appeared to name the Massive Attack member, a personal friend, in an interview. He said: “No disrespect to Rob, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over.”
- Liverpool pub sighting – A photo showing a man wearing a high-vis jacket appearing to start work on a painting of a giant white rat on the White Horse pub in Liverpool in 2004 sparked speculation Banksy had finally been unmasked.
- Bethlehem pictures – William Kasper, from London, believed he had unmasked the graffiti king with pictures captured in 2007. Members of the public later identified the painter as James Ame – also known as aka AM72 – a UK painter who lives in Israel.
- Bristol video footage – Grainy 47-second clip shows a man in a hoodie and a painter’s face mask using stencils and cardboard to spray fresh graffiti in an underpass in Bansky’s native Bristol in 2010.
- Dismaland sighting – In 2015, fans were convinced they spotted a man who they thought might look like Banksy outside his Dismaland installation in Weston-super-Mare. But to their disappointment, it was later revealed to be a parking attendant from the local council.
- A collective of artists – Another theory is that Banksy is not one person but a team of street artists. In 2016, Scottish journalist Craig Williams claimed that Del Naja was a member of the group.
How did Banksy get started and how much is he worth?
Dubbed the Scarlet Pimpernel of the art world, Banksy is an anonymous English-based street and graffiti artist as well as a political artist.
He first burst into prominence in the early 1990s as a graffiti artist whose works highlighted corruption and inequality in society with a smattering of humour.
His work was spotted around the south of England, including London, Brighton and Bristol, although his art has often popped up in prominent international locations.
Banksy has never been unmasked and it is believed his refusal to reveal himself started as a way of avoiding prosecution for vandalism.
The artist has also dabbled in the world of film, releasing the “street art disaster movie” Exit Through The Gift Shop.
And in 2015 he opened Dismaland, a large scale installation in Weston-super-Mare lampooning Disneyland.
In 2013, Forbes said the £14million ($20million) artist did not want his art to be worth anything.
What famous art has Banksy created?
Banksy has left his memorable mark all over the world but has been most prolific in the UK.
The guerrilla artist is known to have created more than 120 works spanning three decades.
Here are a handful which have helped make his name.
- There is Always Hope – London
Arguably Banksy’s most iconic piece, it appeared in South Bank, London, in around 2002.
The title is written behind a young girl seen reaching for a balloon in the shape of a heart.
- Devolved Parliament
Bansky’s 13ft wide painting of chimpanzees in the House of Commons hit the headlines in October 2019 when it sold at auction for £9.9million.
Its sale shattered the 2008 record for a Banksy artwork which was £1.4million for a Damien Hirst “spot” painting stencilled over by the graffiti artist.
The work was first unveiled as part of his exhibition vs Bristol Museum in 2009.
Banksy reacted on Instagram to the sale and said: “”Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight.
“Shame I didn’t still own it.”
- EU flag – Dover
It features a workman on a ladder removing one of the bright yellow stars following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
The artwork close to the Kent port town’s ferry terminal features a workman on a ladder removing one of the bright yellow stars[/caption]
- GCHQ Government Spies Telephone Box – Cheltenham
In April 2014, he created a piece near to GCHQ in Cheltenham of three men wearing sunglasses and using listening devices to snoop on a telephone box.
It followed revelations from files leaked by former CIA agent Edward Snowden about the surveillance techniques used by intelligence agencies.
- Draw The Raised Bridge – Hull
This work shows a young boy wearing a helmet and cape alongside the words “Draw the raised bridge” and appeared in January, 2018.
The original artwork was destroyed in three days but soon restored, with the council saying it will protect the painting.
In July 2018 it was revealed the artwork was being moved into storage ahead of urgent works.
What is his most recent artwork all about?
Banksy visited Port Talbot on the weekend of December 15 and 16 to paint a mural on a garage wall.
The image – stencilled on two sides of the garage – appears to show a little boy playing in the snow from one angle.
The artist confirmed the art was his by posting a video of it captioned “season’s greetings” on Instagram.
Banksy’s latest graffiti is thought to be a reference to the steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales, which belch soot and ash over nearby homes.
Houses in the area were left coated in black dust over the summer – sparking fears over the long-term health impact.
“It could start affecting people’s health if something isn’t done about it soon.”
What happened to his artwork at auction?
Banksy’s artwork titled Girl With Balloon was up for auction at Sotheby’s in London when it self-destructed.
Art experts say it is now worth double.
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What graffiti was spotted in Tokyo?
A drawing bearing resemblance to a famous Banksy painting “Umbrella rat” was spotted at a monorail station in Tokyo in January 2019.
It is not clear when the work was sprayed onto the door but officials said they had known about it for a while, the BBC reports.
In a tweet, the capital’s Governor Yuriko Koike called the artwork a possible “gift to Tokyo”.
The door has now been removed and placed in storage to prevent any damage to it, officials said.