Banksy: 8 signs Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja is mystery artist

The clues have been there all along

Emily Shugerman
New York
Saturday 06 October 2018 11:00 BST
Identity of Banksy 'accidentally revealed' by Goldie

Ever since the name Banksy entered the cultural lexicon, guessing at the infamous street artist’s true identity has been something of an international pastime.

Now, fans believe the DJ Goldie may have accidentally revealed the true name of the mysterious painter, in an interview with Scroobius Pip's Distraction Pieces podcast.

"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,” said Goldie, who has claimed to be a friend of Banksy’s.

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

The artist’s casual use of the name “Robert” re-ignited theories that Banksy is actually Robert Del Naja, the 52-year-old member of trip hop trio Massive Attack.

Goldie appears to be laughing the rumours off, tweeting that he was on the phone with Mr Del Naja, 'f***ing p***ing our pants'" – not quite what you would call a denial.

While “Robert” could really be anyone – and the whole thing could be a giant prank, or a simple slip of the tongue – there’s some pretty compelling evidence to back the theory up.

1. Both spent their formative years in Bristol

Mr Del Naja, who goes by the stage name “3D,” was born in Bristol. He spent the years before joining Massive Attack performing with Bristol-based band The Wild Bunch.

While no one knows for sure where Banksy was born, his career started with freehand graffiti art as part of Bristol's DryBreadZ Crew in the 1990s.

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2. Their art shares many similarities

A Massive Attack album cover designed by Robert Del Naja

Mr Del Naja is actually a well-known visual artist, whose art has appeared on every one of Massive Attack’s record sleeves. He started his career as a graffiti artist and is credited with bringing the stencil graffiti movement to Bristol.

Banksy, meanwhile, is arguably the most well-known graffiti artist in the world – and one who frequently uses stencils.

While stylistically different in many regards (which would make sense in terms of keeping a cover), there are distinct overlaps between much of Banksy and Mr Del Naja's stencil work.

Some of the clearest examples of the similarities in can be found here and here.

3. They claim to be friends

While both men have denied the rumours they are the same person, neither of them have denied there is a connection.

In fact, Mr Del Naja told the Daily Mail that Banksy is a “mate,” and that he’s “been to some of the [Massive Attack] gigs”.

The artist even made an appearance in Banksy’s 2010 mockumentary “Exit through the Gift Shop”. Banksy returned the favour by writing the intro to Mr Del Naja’s book, “3D & the Art of Massive Attack”.

4. They roll in the same circles

Banksy and Robert Del Naja's mutual friend Geoff Barrow performs at SXSW (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Mr Del Naja is friendly with Geoff Barrow of Portishead, and this is an important link when it comes to his possible second life as Banksy.

Mr Barrow interned at Bristol's Coach House studio at the same time a Massive Attack album was recorded, and the two men organised a charity concert in Bristol for Tsunami Relief in 2005.

In 2010, Mr Barrow produced the entire soundtrack for Banksy’s “Exit through the Gift Shop” – meaning there must have already been some sort of musical connection or appreciation between the two men.

Former Banksy spokesperson Lazarides Rathbone also told The Independent that after the two parted ways, "I saw him at a Massive Attack gig ... but maintained a healthy distance”.

Maybe because the artist was actually onstage?

Banksy sells for over $1m then immediately self-destructs

5. There is a clear pattern between Massive Attack tour dates and appearances of Banksy's work

Journalist Craig Williams helped fuel this theory last year, with a blog post matching the appearance of Banksy murals with Massive Attack tour dates.

The intrepid 31-year-old discovered at least six occasions on which Banksy murals appeared shortly before or after Massive Attack performances in the same city.

On one occasion, Massive Attack played a show at Toronto's Sound Academy on the same day Banksy murals appeared in the city. On another, Massive Attack took a residency in New York at the same time Banksy's “The Street Is in Play” popped in NYC. The same pattern has emerged in Melbourne, Boston, LA and New Orleans.

Mr Williams has proposed that Banksy is actually a group of artists that follow Massive Attack around the world, but some remain convinced it is Mr Del Naja himself.

6. Banksy has a thing for Massive Attack’s music

Banksy's "Dismaland," where Massive Attack was slated to play ( Matthew Horwood/Getty Images))

This year, the artist opened the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem – a protest piece and fully functional hotel featuring a soundtrack by none other than Massive Attack.

The band was also slated to pay Banksy’s faux theme park, “Dismaland,” but cancelled at the last minute.

7. Banksy also cites Mr Del Naja as inspiration

In his intro for “3D and the Art of Massive Attack,” Banksy wrote of Mr Del Naja: “When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard."

“3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack,” he continues, “which may have been a good thing for him, but was a big loss for the city.”

8. Goldie said the name ‘Robert’!

Clifford Joseph Price, better known as Goldie: MBE

Admittedly, there are thousands of people in the world named Robert – but only one of them is connected to a fan theory around the world’s most mysterious street artists.

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