This Is How Banksy Got His Name

One of the most famous names in the graffiti world is "Banksy." The artist, who has been painting since the 1990s and has sold work for as much as $25.4 million at auction, is well-known for retaining his anonymity even after his work skyrocketed him to fame. But have you ever wondered where he came up with his pseudonym?

Banksy got his start as a graffiti artist in the Barton Hill neighborhood in Bristol, England in the 1980s. The neighborhood, which was dingy and unwelcoming, intimidated Banksy at first, according to Smithsonian Magazine. But he was determined to make art. At the beginning of his career, he experimented with different names he could use for his "tag," the signature that marks a piece of graffiti as an artist's own. Initially, he used the name "Robin Banx," a play on words meant to evoke the danger of "robbing banks." However, the name was long and not particularly catchy. Eventually, the moniker evolved into the snappy "Banksy," which is now found on museum gallery walls across the world today.

Who is Robin Banx?

If Banksy came from "Robin Banx," the question then becomes: who is Robin Banx? In fact, this information is the biggest clue to Banksy's identity. Although Banksy tries to maintain his anonymity, he hasn't necessarily been successful There have been many errors and investigations that have threatened to reveal him over the years, including a mistake made by music producer DJ Goldie in 2017, when he apparently slipped up on a podcast and referred to Banksy as "Rob" (via The National News.) Some suspect that means Banksy's name is Robert, but others have connected it to his original graffiti name of "Robin Banx," wondering if Banky's real first name might be "Robin."

Other sources support this claim. Many individuals have come forward to assert that Banksy's real name is Robin Gunningham, a Bristol native who has been caught on photograph doing graffiti art in the past, according to The Sun. Still, there are other competing theories about Banksy's identity which are in line with the "Robin"-related hints, including the speculation that Banksy is Robert del Naja, a famous graffiti artist and frontman for the band Massive Attack. By this theory, the "Robin Banx" name might have evolved from Robert. In the end, we only know one thing for sure: evidence for the name's origins is far from definitive, and probably won't be definitive until Banksy himself cracks the case.