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For over twenty years, the artwork of graffiti artist Banksy has been praised for its intelligent and controversial commentaries on political and social issues. Whilst many theories have circulated the internet as to the identity of Banksy, nothing was known for certain. However, over the last few days, all may have changed.
Banksy’s pieces often sell for more than £500,00, and many locations which have been graphitized are now protected as works of art. They have also been sold to prominent figures such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Speaking to Sroobius Pip on the podcast Distraction Pieces on Tuesday 20th June, DJ Goldie (real name Clifford Joseph Price) appears to have blown Banksy’s cover. A transcript of the portion of the interview reads “Give me a bubble letter and put it on a t-shirt and write ‘Banksy’ on it and we’re sorted. 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.”
Whilst there is no specification as to who Robert is, it seems likely that the man in question is Robert Del Naja, frontman of trip hop band Massive Attack. The band is known for hits such as ‘Tear Drop’ and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.
Seemingly realising his mistake, Goldie quickly changed the subject to jazz music. Additionally, he has since tried to diffuse the issue on Twitter, tweeting
Just on the phone with #3d rolling around fucking pissing our pants ???❤
— GOLDIE (@MRGOLDIE) June 23, 2017
Even before this faux pas, theories existed that linked Banksy to the band.
Before the success of the band, Del Naja was a known street artist himself, admitting to having been arrested twice for such. His own artwork has been featured on each of his bands album covers. Significantly, Del Naja is credited with having brought the stencil movement to Bristol: the initial location and primary style of Banksy.
In addition, the two are friends. Del Naja has described Banksy as a “mate”, and claims the latter has been to some Massive Attack gigs. It is thus perhaps unsurprising that Banksy wrote the introduction for Del Naja’s book called “3D & the Art of Massive Attack”. In reverse, Del Naja featured in Banksy’ 2010 mockumentary entitled “Exit through the Gift Shop”, and his recently opened Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem features a soundtrack by Massive Attack.
Journalist Craig Williams was a pivotal figure in the creation of the theory linking the two artists, plotting occasions on which the appearance of Banksy’s artwork coincided with Massive Attack gigs. He found there to be at least six occasions of such, in Toronto, New York, Melbourne, Boston, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Nonetheless, the two have also done their best to distance their identities. Banksy has previously claimed to be much younger than Del Naja, stating that he had looked up to him as a child. Del Naja has also reputed the connection telling a crowd “We are all Banksy”. He also claimed that any correlation between gigs and artwork was “purely a matter of logistics and coincidence, nothing more than that”.
However, over the years, Del Naja is but one of a string of suspects, which has also included former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, Bristolian Robin Banks, the now deceased King Robbo, and comic street artist Thierry Guetta.
Whilst Goldie has provided us with some pretty concrete evidence, it would seem there is still some mystery in the air.
Want to see more of Banksy’s work? Check out his method of persuading people to vote against the Tories.