The true identity of the graffiti artist Banksy is one of the biggest secrets in the modern art world. His artwork has appeared across the UK, and the mysterious artist has even painted political works of art on the Israeli West Bank Wall and buildings left derelict in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Despite his identity being a secret to many, Banksy has earned a fortune from auctions of his art, while some people who have been lucky enough to have a Banksy painted on their property have also profited. Even a simple photograph, which was supposed to be the back of Banksy’s head, sold for $43,000 at Sotheby’s.
But could the mysterious Banksy be a celebrity who we already know from the world of music or movies? Here is a list of the most – and least – likely contenders.
20 Could Be Banksy — Lucy Liu
Actress Lucy Liu is a strong potential candidate given her success in the art world and the abstract nature of the images she creates. The fact that Banksy started his career in Bristol, however, England does seem to point away from the LA-based movie star, who held her first museum show in Singapore in 2019.
19 Couldn't Be Banksy — Michael Jackson
There are plenty of celebrity artists who are unlikely to be concealing a hidden identity as a secret graffiti artist, let alone Banksy. Michael Jackson loved to draw, but his childish cartoons are a world away from the complex and thoughtful works which have been created by Banksy over the years.
18 Could Be Banksy — Rob Zombie
Rob Zombie, lead singer of the heavy metal band White Zombie and an acclaimed filmmaker, is also something of an artist – and he is definitely the kind of anti-establishment figure you could imagine painting graffiti onto the walls of banks and political institutions. Zombie even used some of his own creations as the artwork for his albums.
17 Could Be Banksy — Jim Carrey
Comic actor Jim Carrey may not strike you as the sensitive and artistic type, but he is actually quite an accomplished painter. His paintings could be described as reminiscent of Banksy’s artwork, with their simple images and political undertones, but Carrey spent the 90s in Hollywood, not Bristol where the enigmatic artist fist emerged.
16 Could Be Banksy — Marilyn Manson
Banksy is noted for his rather dark view of the world, using his graffiti art to comment on politics, finance and the environment. Another celebrity artist who shares that dark view of the world is singer Marylin Manson, who has created some bizarre and striking watercolor images that would make an intriguing piece of graffiti.
15 Couldn't Be Banksy — Johnny Cash
Aside from the fact that country singer Johnny Cash died in 2003, and Banksy works have continued to appear regularly ever since, the Man In Black is unlikely to be the mysterious graffiti artist, as his own paintings tended to be more surreal and a lot more colorful than Banksy’s creations.
14 Could Be Banksy — Steven Tyler
Fellow rocker Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, has always been a snappy dresser, and it seems that his creative juices are not restricted to his own wardrobe. Tyler creates his own graffiti-style art, inspired by music and popular culture, and could easily have turned his hand to creating Banksy’s famous images.
13 Could Be Banksy — James Franco
Oscar-nominated actor James Franco is probably the famous face most likely to be behind Banksy’s mysterious works of art. Aside from the fact that he grew up on the wrong side of the Atlantic, Franco’s own graffiti art features figures from history and culture, and the actor has even created his own murals.
12 Could Be Banksy — Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper isn’t just a great actor; he was also part of Andy Warhol’s closest group of friends in the 60s and 70s. Warhol even called him a collaborator when Hopper added bullet holes to a Warhol portrait of Chairman Mao. Hopper is certainly edgy enough to be Banksy, even if his tragic death in 2010 means that he couldn’t be responsible for any of his recent works!
11 Could Be Banksy — Yoko Ono
John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono is perhaps more famous as a performance artist, but she has also created some more conventional pieces of art that could put her in the frame for being Banksy’s real identity. Some of Ono’s works have even been shown in the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York.
10 Couldn't Be Banksy — Jane Seymour
Actress Jane Seymour is about as far from Banksy as you can get. Not only does her artwork tend to feature whimsical landscapes and cute golden-haired children, but it is also difficult to imagine the Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman star wandering the streets of London at night with a spray can in her hand!
9 Could Be Banksy — Paul McCartney
Yoko One isn’t the only big name associated with The Beatles who dabbles in the world of art. Singer Paul McCartney also likes to paint abstract works, usually portraits. The Beatles have themselves been the subject of many works of street graffiti, including some by artists who are known to have a connection to Banksy.
8 Could Be Banksy — Bob Dylan
Fellow 60s icon Bob Dylan also likes to express his creative side through his art as well as his music. Nobel Prize Laureate Dylan loves nothing more than to capture familiar scenes from American life, including some of the well-known signs and symbols which have been employed by Banksy over the years.
7 Could Be Banksy — Anthony Hopkins
When you picture graffiti artists, you don’t tend to imagine 80-year-old Oscar-winning actors running around the streets with spray cans. Anthony Hopkins has always had a rebellious streak, however, and he is a talented artist who has created some intriguing and colorful works of art throughout his career as an amateur painter.
6 Could Be Banksy — Macaulay Culkin
Child star Macaulay Culkin has shown himself to be a multi-talented artist. Not only has he starred in several movies, but he established a comedy rock group called The Pizza Underground while dabbling in performance art and turning his New York apartment into an art studio— where he has created some very original graffiti-style works of art.
5 Couldn't Be Banksy — Shia LaBeouf
Like Macaulay Culkin, Shia LaBeouf is another child star who has found different ways to express himself as he has grown older. While he is rebellious enough to be Banksy, his art tends to be more about performance and shock value than about demonstrating any actual talent when it comes to putting paint to paper – or to concrete.
4 Could Be Banksy — Rosie O'Donnell
Comedian turned talk show host Rosie McDonnell has always been outspoken about her political and cultural beliefs – something which fits in very well with Banksy’s artistic creations. Rosie O’Donnell is also a talented artist herself and has turned her canvas against some of the most controversial modern American figures.
3 Could Be Banksy — Robin Gunningham
Successful graffiti artist Robin Gunningham is actually considered by many in the art world to be the real Banksy, not only because of the similarities in their respective styles, but also because Gunningham was spotted taking a photograph at a Sotheby’s auction which later appeared on Banksy’s own Twitter feed.
2 Could Be Banksy — Robert Del Naja
Most people in the know, however, believe that musician Robert Del Naja is the man behind the Banksy art, or at least that he is part of a team which creates the work. Del Naja is the singer in UK band Massive Attack, which first emerged in Bristol in the 1990s – around the same time that Banksy’s first works appeared in the same city.
1 Couldn't Be Banksy — Tony Bennett
Crooner Tony Bennett is another artistic celebrity who is unlikely to be scaling buildings under cover of darkness to create a new work of art. Besides, his paintings, while very accomplished, tend to be colorful landscapes and portraits of fellow musicians, rather than the bold political and cultural statements created by Banksy.
Sources: Art Net, Kerrang, Artlyst, Hollywood, Art Evolution