Is Banksy really a woman? That'd be cool.
Banksy, the elusive and wildly popular street artist, has never been identified by a reporter. Even during Banksy’s month-long residency in New York City, when reporters from several major newspapers attempted to track the artist’s every move, no photo of the mysterious person behind the installations surfaced. A new theory, put forth by Quartz’s Kriston Kapps, argues that this blindness partially came from those reporters looking in the wrong places. All this time, the automatic image of Banksy has been a lone British man. But what if Banksy is someone totally different? What if Banksy is really a woman?
It sounds like a tough sell: When Guardian reporter Simon Hattenstone met Banksy 11 years ago, he described Banksy as someone who “looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.” Banksy’s pal Shephard Fairey refers to the artist as a “he” and in Exit Through The Gift Shop, the shadowy figure representing the artist is certainly coded as male.
But Canadian media artist Chris Healey has maintained since 2010 that Banksy is a woman, or even a team of street artists led by a woman. “Since there is so much misdirection and jamming of societal norms with Banksy’s work, as well as the oft-repeated claim no one notices Banksy, then it makes sense,” Healey told Kapps. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”
There’s the fact that, unlike most street artists, Banksy often includes portraits of women in his or her work. And there’s also the idea that, as Kapps argues, women experience the art world differently, particularly street art. Banksy’s manipulation of a traditional male medium could be a radical feminist statement about owning the streets, fighting back against the presumption that public space is mostly male. Is Banksy a woman? It’s hard to say for sure, but it sure would be an interesting twist.