When a helpful schoolboy on a train was handed a ‘Banksy’ by a passenger it instantly reignited the mystery concerning the true identity of the artist. Ben Azarya was handed the signed copy of an iconic print which he was told would be worth about £20,000 after the schoolboy helped a stranger pick up his paints after they fell from his bag.
The mysterious individual then signed a print of a flower thrower, with a distinctive autograph and gave it to the 14-year-old school boy telling him to ‘have a good life’. At the time of the chance encounter Ben had no idea who Banksy was until he got home and searched for the elusive street artist on the internet.
Ben saidat the time: “He was on the phone for most of the time talking to someone called AK47. He opened his rucksack and had a gas mask and spray paints inside. He got out a piece of paper and had colours marked on it of what he had been trying out and he dropped his colours. I picked them up for him and after that he started signing it in weird letters and numbers. He said ‘do you know who Robin Banks is?’.”
Yet with so many competing claims about Banksy this latest incident has failed to dispel doubts about his – or her – true identity. Street artist has made a name for himself with anti-capitalist, anti-establishment and anti-war works of graffiti. But to many he remains no more than a name: despite rumours, theories and a convincing unmasking, doubt still remains about the true identity of the artist.
Works by Banksy have appeared in Mali and on the wall that divides Israel from the Palestinian territories, as well as in London and his supposed home town of Bristol; all of which have contributed to a global interest in the artist, and the air of mystery.
The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone, is one of the few people to have interviewed Banksy, and described him as looking “like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets” when it is stated that he met the artist back in 2003.
In fact there is no shortage of theories about Banksy’s identity and also no shortage of Banksys: Canadian artist Chris Healey has claimed that “Banksy” is really a collective of seven artists. Although the artist has not explained what led him to that conclusion, saying only that the information comes from a reliable source. Will the art world ever really find out the identity of the infamous street artist? – and does it really want to?