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What in the name of Banksy is this

graffiti artist, banksy, marilyn
The graffiti artist’s great-escape routine after the completion of every mural makes bigger news than his creations. But does this drama really make up for what he leaves us with?

“I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.”

— Text from a Banksy painting

The string of recent reports on Banksy’s real identity, pinning him down as that singer from Massive Attack, had me wondering whether, if the reports were indeed true, this would end up having an adverse impact on the street artist’s public image — that carefully cultivated void of a public image.

Surely, the appeal of Banksy’s work is predicated as much on its edgy and satirical content as on the fog of anonymity built around it. We don’t know where Banksy comes from or where Banksy goes. The murals just keep popping up, mysteriously, overnight, in Bristol, in London, in San Francisco, and who knows where next. And the slippery wraith somehow always manages to get away unseen. All this is part of the Banksy package. But what if there were no such vanishing acts at the end of every Banksy piece? Would we still be interested in the moralising, the shock value, the simplistic Manichean contrasts that characterise so much of Banksy’s art?

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