A few weeks ago there was a fake press release burning through the internet stating that Banksy, the famously anonymous British street artist, had been arrested by London police and his identity had been revealed. I totally fell for it! I clicked! I hecka wanted to know who Banksy was! I mean, in a world where people like Kim Kardashian will exploit their own exploitation to add stacks to their already bloated accounts, it’s refreshing and a little incredulous that someone who can do AMAZING THINGS would not want anyone to know who they were. Of course, Banksy does things that are illegal, so that’s high motivation for anonymity, but bank and marriage fraud are also illegal and at least in America, people do those things publicly all the time without consequence. Anywho, I am intrigued as to Banksy’s identity, and I have a few educated guesses as to who this person might be.
1. George Walker Bush
If you have a Facebook account, you may know about the leaked Bush self-portraits hacked by someone named Guccifer (who I want to claim for team queer because – Guccifer?!). Here they are:
I know what you’re thinking: Banksy is a talented artist who is politically against pretty much everything GWB stood for. I don’t think the same person who paints incredibly well-rendered life-like images painted those scapula-lungs in the shower canvas. But I say, PERFECT COVER. You know how Banksy (allegedly?) created Mr. Brainwash and thereby his art as cultural commentary? Maybe GWB’s entire presidency was performance art by Banksy and these bathing-time self portraits are an exploration of what a man like that would paint. Except no. Because the effects of the GWB presidency on the people of the world are something no one would allow for the sake of art… but then, there was that whole Salvador Dalí/Franco thing, so who knows? Still, if we’re gonna go with far-right conservatism as performance art, a more likely candidate is…
2. Ann Coulter
My friend Michael Braithwaite has a long standing theory that Ann Coulter is actually a performance artist purposefully intending to show how bigotry and narrow-mindedness make a person look ridiculous. This theory aligns well with my theory that she could be Banksy.
For me, this Banksy piece says a lot about the intersection between issues of gender and class. It could easily be by the same person who said “I think [women] should be armed but should not vote … women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it … it’s always more money on education, more money on child care, more money on day care” — IF you take this statement to be intended to show how questioning the value of universal suffrage and dismissing the needs of working mothers makes you look like an idiot.
3. Michael Jackson
MJ is not dead! He is alive and expressing his radical politic via street art as Banksy! The King is Dead, Long Live the King!! If we surmise that Banksy’s true identity is someone who shares his concern for the people of world, MJ is a clear candidate. In addition to being the greatest entertainer of all time, Michael Jackson loved to draw.
Despite his humiliating public struggle with internalized colorism, he repped black people HARD his whole life and loved music, especially black music. I think it makes sense that he would use Banksy as a cover to go to New Orleans post-Katrina and paint this:
4. Cecilia Jimenez
Cecilia Jimenez is the woman who “restored” the Ecce Homo fresco into the super-meme Beast Jesus. Is it a stretch to think that a mature, female artist might invent a young, masculine alter ego in order to be taken more seriously by an ageist and sexist culture? I think not. Beast Jesus can totally be read as a statement about Catholic symbology.
In fact, the Jimenez piece is far more subtle, one might even say, more complex, than the obvious statement in this known Banksy piece:
5. Jay Z
On the “Moment of Clarity” track on the Black album, Jay Z says: “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollas/They criticized me for it, yet they all yell ‘holla!'” This lyric isn’t the only time Jay Z has expressed simultaneous regret and pride for leaving behind complexity for cash. What if he could have both worlds? What if he could sell dumbed-down records all day and paint overtly political street art at night?
I mean, “99 Problems” has been interpreted as a statement about racial profiling. I can totally see Jay-Z-Banksy throwing the above piece up on a London wall. Except… If Banksy was Jay Z, the “Banksy arrested” thing would not be a hoax, it would be real. When people see a white guy doing things, a lot of times they assume whatever that guy is doing is okay, even when there is obvious reason to suspect otherwise. Black guys, not so much. The success of Banksy’s most famous escapades in civil disobedience — adding altered classics to the walls in the Metropolitan Museum of Art dressed like the Pink Panther, jumping into a fenced-off Disneyland attraction — relies as heavily on white privilege as it does on his artistic talent and sharp commentary.
In the end, my list is all fun and games, since Banksy’s true identity has been an open secret since at least 2008. His name is Robin Gunningham. OR SO HE SAYS.