Did Goldie reveal the identity of Banksy?

The identity of Banksy remains one of the biggest modern mysteries. Over the years, there have been countless theories surrounding the street artist. Confirmed details about the artist remain limited, except that he’s originally from Bristol and moved to London at the turn of the century. However, nothing else is known about Banksy, which has made him an enigmatic figure who has transcended the art world.

While his art is divisive, many view him as inferior to the pioneering French stenciller Blek le Rat, who invented the style that Banksy made internationally famous. The Bristollian artist even once admitted: “Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier.”

However, a significant reason Banksy is a household name rather than Blek le Rat is primarily due to the mystery surrounding his identity. As soon as his art began to gain traction, Banksy found himself at the epicentre of major media coverage, which only made him become more enigmatic and his art sell for more money.

In 2008, The Mail On Sunday claimed to have unmasked Banksy and printed an image of him allegedly working on art in Jamaica. They said that the artist was called Robin Gunningham after undergoing “an exhaustive year-long investigation” who was once a student at Bristol Cathedral School. Since the investigation, this has widely been accepted to be Banksy.

However, when Goldie appeared on Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces Podcast in 2017, he cast a seed of doubt upon the identity of Banksy when he referred to him as “Rob”. People believed Goldie had revealed he was Robert Del Naja from Massive Attack. He was previously a street artist before he became a musician and was cited as an inspiration by Banksy. The DJ told the host: “For something like graffiti, which has inspired the world with font or anything to do with anyone wearing a baseball cap and fucking sneakers, at its centre it is still misunderstood.”

Goldie added: “But 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 Rob, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over.”

Additionally, there is a correlation between Massive Attack tour dates and artwork by Banksy appearing in cities. It once happened on the day of their show at Toronto’s Sound Academy, during their residency in New York, and in Melbourne, Boston, Los Angeles and New Orleans. In response to the theory, Del Naja said: “It would be a good story but sadly not true. Wishful thinking, I think. He is a mate as well. He’s been to some of the gigs. It’s purely a matter of logistics and coincidence, nothing more than that.”

Del Naja could be telling the truth, and maybe it’s merely a “coincidence” that Massive Attack’s tour dates have been on the same days as when art by Banksy sprung up in cities. Or, it could be a deliberate attempt to divert the scent away from the true identity of Banksy and make it look like it’s Del Naja instead of Gunningham. After all, Goldie might have been referring to Robin rather than Robert when he said “Rob”. It could even be a collective that includes both of them, but it’s perhaps best that Banksy retains his anonymity as it’s the main ingredient that makes the street artist so alluring and notorious.

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