Could Banksy Be a Woman?

Banksy Girl with a Pierced Eardrum (2014) Photo: Banksy

The HBO documentary Banksy Does New York premiered on HBO Go on October 31, creating a revived interest in the mysterious street artist’s unknown identity. He has been thought of as a man throughout his career, but new theories point to something quite different: Could Banksy actually be . . . a woman?

CityLab explores the hypothesis in depth, citing Canadian media artist Chris Healey, who has maintained for years that Banksy is actually a team of seven artists led by a woman. He believes the leader may be the blonde woman who appears in scenes depicting Banksy’s alleged studio in the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.

“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 explains. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”

The claim doesn’t seem so far-fetched upon examining Banksy’s oeuvre. Girls and women appear in many of Banksy’s stencils, which is atypical for street art (especially given that Banksy’s women aren’t presented in a sexualized manner).

It’s also worth noting that Banksy’s work occupies a strange cross section of fine art and street art, and it seems conceivable that such a unique position could be created by a woman, since women experience art, the world, and the art world in a dramatically different way than men do.

The world may never know the true identity of the most famous street artist in history. But even if Banksy isn’t a woman, entertaining the hypothesis that he could be a she creates space for other female artists to gain agency in the art world, something most women agree is long overdue.

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