Artists in Glasgow
The search for the real identity of Banksy is a story one that never fails capture the imagination of the media and the millions of fans across the globe of the subversive Bristol street artist, ever since he came to the public’s attention back in 1997 with his The Mild Mild West mural.
And with the news that filtered out in March of a scientific study by Queen Margaret University confirming previous studies that pointed out to him as being plain old public school boy Robin Gunningham, the final nail in the coffin was struck in what had left the world scratching their heads.
But what if Banksy isn’t the one person everyone thinks he is. What if – akin to the Shakespeare consiparcy theories, Banksy is a group of people who have stencilling different locations both at home and abroad. Such a rich body of work done over a decade, across the globe, may allow for the suggestion.
A rumour exists from 2010 that his work that went up around North America was his work but were not necessarily painted by him, but rather by a street team that happened to be following the Massive Attack tour.
And on analysis of his North American work, this makes perfect sense.
Around the time when six Banksy murals were reported to the press in San Francisco on the 1st of May 2010, including the famous ‘This Will Look Nice When It’s Framed’ image, Massive Attack performed a two night stint in the city on the 25th and 27th April, a few days previously.
Also in Toronto a similar pattern arises. Massive Attack played the city’s Sound Academy on May 7th and May 9th in 2010, the latter being the day that three new Banksy murals appeared in the city.
On the 12th of May, a new Banksy mural also appeared in Boston’s Chinatown area, depicting a ‘cancelled’ ‘Follow your dreams’ stencil. Massive Attack performed at the city’s legendary House Of Blues venue one day later, on the 13th May.
We can also jump backwards and forwards to both 2006, 2008 and 2013, when Banksy held residencies at art galleries in L.A. and New York and when new works of his appeared in the country. Again, a link with Massive Attack is evident.
In 2006, Massive Attack embarked on a US tour which saw them play in California in Berkeley on the 22nd of September and the famous Hollywood Bowl venue on the 24th in Los Angeles, the week after Banksy held his ‘Barely Legal’ exhibition in the city, over the weekend of the 15th-17th of September.
Fast forward two years to 2008, and Banksy returned to the US to produced 14 stencils throughout New Orleans to mark the upcoming third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Del Naja wrote the soundtrack alongside fellow Massive Attack member Neil Davidge to the New Orleans-themed documentary ‘Trouble the Water’. It received its New Orleans premiere on the 17th August that year – the same time period, almost to the day, that the stencils appeared.
And in 2013, when the artist’s month long residency in New York kicked off on the 1st October, the dates coincided with Massive Attack’s four night residency in the city between the 28th September and the 4th October at the city’s Park Avenue Armoury.
What about the wider field of play? The locations across the globe where Banksy has left his mark, apart from in Bristol, London and North America include Italy and Australia, and even, if we are to be believed, Africa.
As order dictates, I started at the beginning. And with that, somewhere close to home. Glasgow.
One of Bansky’s earliest public displays of his work was at the now defunct Arches nightclub and event space, under the city’s Central Station. The event saw the artist- then relatively unknown, share a billing with fellow, and more established, artist Jamie Reid of Sex Pistols fame.
Running from around the 1st to 18th March 2001, the Peace is Tough exhibition was poorly attended, but saw Banksy showcase some of his early work, like ‘Monkey Queen’. So why in Glasgow?
If Massive Attack are anything to go by, they also found the venue’s rugged charm to be the perfect launch pad. To celebrate the launch of their second album, ‘Protection’ (which came out on September 26 1994), the band played a concert at the venue on 8th December that year.
Looking abroad, one of Banksy’s first appearances outwith the UK was in Naples, Italy. His famous ‘Madonna Con La Pistola’, painted on the side of a church in the centre of the city, appeared some time around August 2004.
Banksy himself refers to the piece in a photo of the stencil in his book ‘Cut It Out’, released on the 14th of December 2004 – which allows me to make the jump back some months. Searches indicate that photos where first taken around this time of the work, which is still present in its location, covered by a Perspex protective cover.
A work appeared by Banksy in the city in 2010, only for it to be painted over quickly after, with which little information is available. So we know Banksy had ties to Naples, as its the only place he ‘tagged’ in Italy. And that he has visited on more than occasion.
Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja (‘3D’) is a massive Napoli fan and gave an interview to Naples’s Radio Marte in 2010, revealing his passion for the team – a passion handed down to him from his Italian father. In the interview he reveals he attended a Napoli match in Naples against AS Citadella during their time in Serie C1, a match that took place on the 26th September 2004.
So although Massive Attack didn’t play a show there, at least Del Naja was there around the time the mural appeared. The band have had a relationship with the city stretching back to a decade before then in 1994, when Channel 4 filmed a documentary on their visit to the city to visit Del Naja’s father’s place of birth and record with the Naples band Almamegretta.
Let’s move on to Australia, jumping back and forward as we do. He first went down under in April 2003, after being invited to attend to participate in the Semi-Permanent design event in Alexandria, Sydney, creating one of his biggest ever art works while he was there – a collage piece stretching 2.5m high by 9m long.
While in the country he also visited Melbourne, being shown around by a guy called Puzle from a t-shirt label called Burn Crew, whom he met in Sydney, where he sprayed some of his famous rat stencils and a ‘Little Diver’ image around the city, including the famous ACDC lane.
When Banksy’s work appeared in Melbourne, this also represents the last time Massive Attack played in the city, at the Vodafone Arena on March 11th that year, before playing at the Sydney Entertainment Centre of the 14th March, Brisbane on the 16th March and Canberra on the 18th, as part of their Australian tour.
In early August of 2005, Banksy visited Palestine, painting a total of 9 pieces on the Palestinian Wall, including the famous ‘West Bank Guard’ showing a young girl searching a soldier for contraband. He returned a decade later, in February 2015, he further stirred the collective conscience by ‘bombing’ his way across slabs left over from Israel’s 2014 offensive in Gaza.
As for a possible Massive Attack appearance around the time Banksy visited Palestine in early 2005, there is none. Del Naja and Massive Attack have been working since 2005 with the HOPING foundation- Hope and Optimism for Palestinians in the Next Generation – and have continuously lent their support to Palestine issues. After having played 2 gigs in Israel previously, he joined the movement for a cultural boycott of the country in 2010.