Who is Banksy? Theories on artist’s identity explained - as Port Talbot Season’s Greetings piece moved

Banksy art pieces, like Balloon Girl and Kissing Coppers, often highlight social issues

<p>Banksy is one of the most high profile artists in the UK - but has also managed to keep hold of their anonymity (images: PA)</p>

Banksy is one of the most high profile artists in the UK - but has also managed to keep hold of their anonymity (images: PA)

Who is Banksy? It’s a question up there with ‘how did life on earth begin?’ and ‘who shot JFK?’.

Whoever they may be, the person is arguably the UK’s most high profile artist and counts Brad Pitt and Christina Aguilera among their collectors.

They are best known for graffiti or street artworks which can often appear unannounced in towns and cities across the UK.

Banksy art pieces usually highlight social issues through humour and, by their very nature, challenge elitism in the art world as they are intended to be publicly displayed.

One such piece is ‘Season’s Greetings’, which was painted in the South Wales town of Port Talbot in 2018.

Season’s Greetings is now being moved to England (image: PA)

However, the artwork has just been removed due to a dispute between its art dealer owner and the local council.

So what are the theories about who Banksy is - and why is their Port Talbot artwork being moved?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why has Banksy’s Port Talbot artwork been moved?

Banksy’s ‘Season’s Greetings’ was spray painted onto the outside of a lock up garage in Taibach, Port Talbot, on 19 December 2018.

It depicts a boy revelling in snow - although if you look around the corner, it turns out the snow is actually ash from a fire.

The snow in the mural is what is known locally as black dust - a by-product of the steel production that takes place in the town.

Season’s Greetings by Banksy first appeared in Port Talbot in December 2018 (image: PA)

Soon after its appearance, art dealer John Brandler bought the artwork off the garage’s owner, Ian Lewis, for an undisclosed six-figure sum and put it on display in an empty shop unit in Ty’r Orsaf, where it remained until Tuesday (8 February).

The artwork has now been taken away to England because Mr Brandler claims Neath Port Talbot Council sent him a letter in 2021 asking him to remove it.

He also said “fanatics” and “vandals” had tried to destroy the piece, and that it was being moved for preservation purposes.

“I wanted it to stay in the town, and when I bought it that was one of the conditions of me buying it. I wasn’t the biggest offer the owner had but I came up with the idea of lending it to the town and I said it should stay here for at least three years,” he told the PA news agency.

“And then at the end of last year, I got a letter from the council saying ‘right, your three years are up now take it away’. I was quite happy to leave it here.

Banksy shocked the art world with Love is in the Bin - an art piece that shredded itself after being auctioned off (image: PA)

“What a missed opportunity for the town, 150,000 people coming here need tea, coffee, beers, sandwiches, everything.

“Everyone I spoke to in the town wanted it to happen, shop keepers, taxi drivers, but the authorities didn’t want it to happen.”

The council said it had been in discussions about keeping the piece in the town but abandoned the idea when Mr Brandler demanded an annual six-figure sum for the loan of the mural.

“The council was informed it would have to meet the costs of its removal and installation into a new venue, to continue to cover the insurance and to pay a fee in the region of £100,000 per year for the loan of the work,” a spokesperson said.

The cost of relocation of the artwork itself was estimated to cost around £50,000, the council said.

“The future of the artwork is now in the hands of its owner, Mr Brandler,” it added.

It is unknown where the work will now be displayed, although Mr Brandler has said he wants it to have as much of an audience as possible.

Meanwhile, the Banksy Preservation Society now aims to raise enough funds through selling exclusive Banksy Non-fungible token (NFT) Art drops to buy Season’s Greetings from Mr Brandler in order to ensure it will be on display to the public.

Who is Banksy?

It’s believed that Banksy is from Bristol, as that’s where much of their art first started appearing in the early 2000s.

There is also evidence to suggest that Banksy is a man based on a 2003 interview the artist gave to ITV News, although one of the theories about their identity (see below) would appear to debunk this thinking.

Scant little else is known about the artist.

Here are some of the main theories about who Banksy could be:

  • Robin Gunningham: One of the first people who was thought to be Banksy, Gunningham is a Bristolian graffiti artist - although not much else is known about him
  • Robert Del Naja: the Massive Attack founder, also known as 3D, is also a graffiti artist from Bristol. The DJ Goldie appeared to out him in a 2017 interview where he said Del Naja had “flipped the world of art over". However, this may be because he has been cited as an inspiration by Banksy himself
  • James Ame: known as Ame72, James Ame is a UK painter who lives in Israel. He was spotted doing an artwork in Bethlehem by a member of the public in 2007 when Banksy had an exhibition taking place in the city. Banksy has repeatedly returned to Israel and Palestine to highlight the social issues and injustices that have taken place there
  • Neil Buchanan: the Art Attack host was once briefly (and possibly half-jokingly) believed to be the mystery artist, although he has denied being Banksy
  • A collective of artists: who said Banksy had to be one person?

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