Who is Banksy, the mysterious street artist whose work appeared in Ukraine


The anonymous graffiti artist Banksy appears to have confirmed he was in Ukraine when he revealed his latest work on Instagram on Friday, November 11. It comes after a number of murals were found in the war-torn landscape of Borodyanka, a town about 54km northwest of Kyiv, which raised speculation about Banksy’s presence in Ukraine.

Who is this mysterious figure and what Borodyanka artwork is attributed to him? We explain.

What do we know about Banksy?

Banksy is the pseudonym of a UK-based street artist who has received international acclaim for his anti-authoritarian art in public spaces. Believed to have been born in 1975, Banksy first gained attention in the 1990s for his graffiti known for its unique style and socio-politically charged content.

Banksy is based in Bristol, and one of his first large-scale murals is The Mild Mild West – depicting a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at riot police – painted in 1999 in the city’s Stokes Croft .

In 2009, in an interview with Swindle magazine, Banksy reportedly said: “I come from a relatively small town in the south England. When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D painted the streets thoroughly. I think he had been to New York and was the first to bring spray painting back to Bristol. I grew up seeing spray paint on the streets long before I saw it in a magazine or on a computer. 3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been good for him but was a big loss for the city. Graffiti was the thing we all loved at school – we all did it on the bus on the way home from school. Everyone was doing it. »

Who could Banksy be?

While Banksy has not revealed his identity, there are several speculations regarding who he is. Here are some of the names:

Robin Gunningham: An alumnus of Bristol Cathedral School, Gunningham was an avid illustrator who drew cartoons at school. In 2016, in a study called “Tagging Banksy,” criminologists at Queen Mary University used geographic profiling to link works created by Banksy in London and Bristol to Gunningham’s known movements. The belief is so popular that in 2018 an original work attributed to Gunningham sold at auction for over £4,000. The artwork is printed on a 1993 cassette inlay cover for Bristol band Mother Samosa’s album Oh My God It’s Cheeky Clown.

Robert Del Naja: A freehand graffiti artist in Bristol, who worked with the name 3D. Banksy mentioned him as one of his inspirations. A founding member of trip hop group Massive Attack, he designed album covers for the outfit. The musician was part of Banksy’s 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and Banksy wrote the foreword to Del Naja’s book 3D and the Art of Massive Attack. In 2015, DJ Goldie reportedly revealed Banksy’s identity when he referred to the artist as Robert in a podcast, where he said: “With no disrespect to Robert, I think he’s a brilliant artist. I think he turned the art world upside down.

Although there are several other suitors – including French graffiti artist “Mr Brainwash” seen in Exit Through the Gift Shop – another seemingly plausible suggestion is that Banksy may be an artist collective and not an individual.

Which Borodyanka Banksy mural did he share a photo of?

The elusive contemporary artist shared three photos of a mural on social media, which depicts a gymnast performing acrobatics. The woman, dressed in a leotard, is shown balancing on broken pieces of rubble protruding from a damaged wall. Banksy posted the images on social media with the caption: “Borodyanka, Ukraine.”

Borodyanka was one of the first towns to be hit by heavy Russian airstrikes and artillery shelling after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 this year. While Ukrainian forces were able to repel Russian troops and liberate the city, Borodyanka remained isolated for weeks. Its electricity had been cut, shops were closed, transport links were not working and human rights agencies and volunteers were the only sources of basic necessities, Sky News reported.

After the withdrawal of Russian troops, the destruction they left was widely publicized. Most of the buildings were destroyed, leaving mostly rubble, which Banksy incorporated into his murals.

What other murals in Ukraine appear to have been painted by Banksy?

Images of other artworks in Ukraine that appear to have a similar style began circulating online earlier this week, raising speculation the artist was in the country. So far, Banksy has not confirmed that the works are his.

One of the murals that appeared in Borodyanka depicts a man who appears to resemble Russian President Vladimir Putin being thrown at the group by a small boy during a judo match. Putin is an avid judoka and has a black belt in the sport. Earlier this year, the International Judo Federation stripped Putin of the titles and positions he held within the organization, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Another mural believed to be of Banksy has appeared in the nearby town of Irpin, which was also heavily bombed but retaken by Ukrainian forces. The work depicts another gymnast in a leotard and neck brace, waving a ribbon on the walls of a burnt-out building. Another in Kyiv shows two children using a metal tank trap, also called a Czech hedgehog, as a swing.

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