On November 21, 2023, a BBC reporter unearthed a 20-year-old interview in which the pseudonymous street artist Banksy disclosed his first name (Robbie) for the first time.
The British graffiti artist is famous around the world for his use of stencils and for his work’s anti-establishment, anti-war themes. A protester tosses not a Molotov cocktail but a bouquet of flowers; a young girl hugs a bomb instead of a teddy bear; a reproduction of Monet’s lily pads is marred by rubbish; the communist leader Che Guevara wears sunglasses with dollar signs over his eyes.
Many of these images appear in “The Art of Banksy,” an unauthorized exhibit in downtown London tracing the artist’s career. Notable is a series of ad materials for The Walled Off Hotel, an actually operating lodging house in the Palestinian West Bank, which Banksy opened in 2017 to draw attention to a physical barrier constructed by the Israeli government. The wall, the hotel’s website declares, is “either a vital security measure or an instrument of apartheid,” depending on one’s perspective.
Given the war now raging between Israel and Hamas (and the worldwide protests that have followed), Banksy’s political statement seems just as relevant as, and even more controversial than, ever.