King Robbo, Banksy’s Rival, Has Died

2014-august-1-king-robbo
Graffiti in Camden, London by painted over by Banksy painted over by Robbo.
Photo: Matt Brown, via Wikimedia Commons.

King Robbo, an artist known for bringing New York-style subway graffiti to London—and, more recently, for his tit-for-tat street art battle with Banksy—has died.

Robbo was the lesser-known half of the Banksy/Robbo feud, but a revered figure in London’s graffiti scene. He had been in a coma since April 2011, when he was found in a London street with serious head injuries (the exact cause of the injuries was never known). The news of his passing was posted to the official Team Robbo site on July 31.

A literally towering figure (he was 6 foot 8 inches tall) who was raised in hard-scrabble East London in the ’70s, Robbo had been retired for some 10 years when he found renewed attention and reason for a return to the street art scene via his rivalry with Banksy.

The spat was complex, but involved an incident when Robbo slapped Banksy in the face at a party, which later caused Banksy to add a sassy stencil to the last remaining Robbo work, in a Camden tunnel. This in turn touched off a feud which saw the rivals deface each other’s works in various madcap ways. The resulting press led to a Robbo show at Signal Gallery, “The Sell Out Tour,” which opened in 2011, shortly before his accident. It also became the subject of a BBC documentary, Graffiti Wars.

Today the splash page of Banksy’s website reads simply “ROBBO WRH WD PFB—R.I.P.” The letters after the artist’s name refer to the various graffiti crews that Robbo was a part of: WRH for We Rock Hard, WD for World Domination, and PFB for (according to founder Elk) Profits From Bethlehem, Punishment For Bumpkins, or Paddy’s Fighting Back, variously.

Watch the BBC documentary Graffiti Wars:


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