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Banksy's secret identity: Who is 'Robert'?

Banksy’s secret identity might have been revealed in a radio interview in which DJ Goldie referred to the artist as “Robert”.

The British DJ was talking to hip hop artist Scroobius Pip on his weekly podcast on Tuesday when he was asked about graffiti art being misunderstood.

“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,” Goldie, a street artist himself, told Pip.

“No disrespect to Robert, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over.”

DJ Goldie
Image:DJ Goldie is a graffiti artist himself

Awkward silence, change of topic and the internet goes crazy with speculation.

Now, all paths are seemingly leading back to one man: Robert Del Naja, aka 3D.

The Massive Attack front man, a friend of Goldie’s, had been linked to the anonymous artist in the past.

Banksy's murals have been linked to Massive Attack shows in different cities
Image:Robert Del Naja has previously denied being Banksy

But the rumours died off as Del Naja swiftly denied the claims himself, telling a crowd of fans that “we are all Banksy”.

“No, it’s not true. But it’s a worthy reminder what a bunch of delinquent ecstatic transgressors Massive Attack have always been, and how it was not so long ago that such subversive voices were carried through music before migrating more fully to visual culture,” he said.

But we are not so easily put off, and have listed a few reasons why “Robert” could well be Del Naja.

1. The man is a former graffiti artist

Just check out all of Massive Attack albums’ cover art. Del Naja did it all and you can clearly see his roots in street art:

Cover art for Massive Attack's fifth studio album Heligoland
Image:Cover art for Massive Attack’s fifth studio album Heligoland

In a rare interview, with Swindle magazine in 2008, Banksy told the story of when he first saw Del Naja’s graffiti and was inspired by it.

“When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the street hard,” he said.

“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.”

Which takes us to…

2. The man is from Bristol

Massive Attack is a trip hop band from Bristol, formed in the late 1980s by Del Naja and Daddy G, former part of the Bristol club collective The Wild Bunch.

Banksy versus Bristol Museum is one of the largest single collections of the artist works
Image:A Banksy in Bristol Museum, which put on the artist’s biggest ever exhibition in 2009

We know Banksy’s from Bristol, and his work is tightly linked to the city’s underground music scene.

3. Where one man goes, the other follows

This is perhaps the biggest clue of all.

Many before me have carefully traced Banksy’s steps, following his works from San Francisco to the West Bank and Naples.

A Banksy wall painting, on the Israeli West Bank barrier near Bethlehem
Image:A Banksy on the Israeli West Bank barrier near Bethlehem

Glasgow journalist Craig Williams published a piece last year claiming Banksy, like the biblical Demon, is “not one, but many”.

“What if Banksy is a group of people who have stencilling different locations both at home and abroad?,” he asked.

The theory is that Banksy is in fact a collective of Massive Attack groupies who follow the band around, painting where they go.

The reasoning behind it is that wherever the group puts on a gig a Banksy mural mysteriously appears.

And then there is Naples…

4. The man loves Naples

Naples is the only Italian city where Banksy has done one of his works and, curiously enough, Del Naja’s childhood teams are Bristol City… and Napoli.

Banksy's only known surviving work in Italy, a mural entitled Madonna with a pistol, in Naples
Image:Banksy’s only known work in Italy, a mural entitled Madonna With A Pistol

“It’s probably because my dad’s Italian. He’s a Napoli fan and was used to watching top-flight stuff,” Del Naja told The Guardian.

“I didn’t have an income back then so I couldn’t go to matches and we hadn’t been to see my family in Naples since I was little.”

That’s right: Del Naja has roots which tie him to the land of pizza.

5. The man has strong political views

Banksy is known for his social and political critiques. Most of his visual art is aimed at big corporations, right-wing politics and consumerism.

He is also in favour of a Palestinian state, having created the “worst view in the world” in the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories.

Del Naja has repeatedly refused to play concerts in Israel in a stance against the Israeli government and its policies.

Del Naja
Image:Del Naja (right) next to Daddy G as they visit a camp for Palestinian refugees

Convinced? If not, there are several other theories floating around.

These include a couple of men who have been arrested trying to impersonate Banksy, a parking attendant at Banksy’s Dismaland, a French artist with a bad reputation and Robin Gunningham, a former public school boy who criminologists at London’s Queen Mary University have profiled as being the elusive artist.

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