Does it really matter who Banksy is?

by Jess Wilby on August 17, 2018

For years, internet sleuths have been obsessed with unmasking one of the world's most infamous graffiti artists, Banksy. So you can imagine the buzz when musician Goldie accidentally referred to the artist by his real world, government name - Robert, in a recent interview on the Scroobius Pip podcast

Pausing for a moment holding on to the word that had just stumbled out of his mouth, Goldie realised mid-interview that he may have made a minor error.

Over the years there have been multiple theories about the true identity of Banksy. One week Banksy is a woman, the next week Banksy is an entire art collective. Once I even came across someone on Reddit claiming to be the artist themselves (yeah, sure). However, there's one theory that has been more popular than most and that's the idea that Banksy is actually Robert Del Naja of Massive attack.

Robert Del Naja and Goldie go way back and worked in the same graffiti artist circles in the late 1980's, leading more and more online investigators to hail this as confirmation that Del Naja is the 'Robert' who Goldie was referring to.

But does it really matter?

For us, the rumors bring up the question - if Banksy really is Robert Del Naja does that change how you feel about the artwork? 

It's very hard to separate the art from the artist. We've spoken before about how up and coming artists should show more of their personality and refrain from hiding behind their artwork. Customers want to know what goes on behind the artwork these days. There's a whole ecosystem of content cataloging how art is made and the magic behind each piece; how the artist crafted their artwork from initial idea to finished product. The whole process is documented and a story is spun.

Yet Banksy has avoided all this. He/She/They remain anonymous at a time when it is more difficult than ever to fly under the radar.

Perhaps this is why Banksy's work is so infamous. Instead of telling you the story behind each piece and letting your opinion of the artist influence your reaction, you're simply left to make up your own mind when a new Banksy pops up. 

Artist's anonymous

If Banksy was fully unmasked things would certainly be different, both for the audience and the artist. Previously we've heard from plenty of artist who feel overwhelmed when all eyes are on them. An artist can get away with a lot more when they're anonymous, in the same way that established artists often say they felt as if they had more creative freedom when they were less popular.

Banksy might be Robert Del Naja or maybe he's not, but Banksy's anonymity makes them someone different in the eyes of everyone. That's where the magic comes from. 

So don't be so quick to uncover the secret to one of Britain's most notorious artists. If not for the love of art, at least to protect the artist from what I imagine is a seriously long list of 'vandalism' offenses!


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