Confronting Assumption: The Case for Banksy as a Woman

HBO’s Banksy Does New York documentary looks back at the British street artist’s 2013 month-long residency in the Big Apple. For those 30 days, fans and passersby gathered around Banksy’s pop-up installations, whether they were graffiti, sculpture, or mixed media—one piece consisted of a livestock truck of stuffed animals, all squeaking plaintively. 

Though the artist has become infamous, works like these are the best representation we have of Banksy. A subject of much speculation, Banksy remains anonymous, characterized mostly by the dark humor and cultural relevance of each piece. The latest (partially founded) guess is that Banksy is, in fact, a woman. 

In an article for Quartz, Kriston Kapps says one of the main reasons no one has discovered Banksy is because they’re regularly looking for a man. According to Kapps, Banksy also evades typically masculine street art themes: control of public space, exclusion of women in illustrations, repetition. Additionally, she writes, “The savvy manipulation of media to make viral art, to make art about vitality, makes Banksy an innovator breaking out of a familiar form. In contemporary art today, that’s a feminine trait…” 

Whether or not Banksy is a woman remains to be seen, but what’s perhaps more interesting is that we immediately assumed the artist was a man. When we start to assume (or better, don’t draw assumptions at all) our rule-breaking artists are women, that’ll be something to write about.

For a closer look at Banksy’s work beyond New York, click through the gallery above. Banksy Does New York debuts November 17 on HBO.

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Images via Getty


A work entitled 'Banksus Militus Vandalus' is displayed in the first unauthorized retrospective of works by British graffiti artist Banksy in London on June 6, 2014.

A gallery assistant poses for a photographer by a work entitled 'Burger King c2006.'

A sculpture by Banksy, called 'The Sirens of the Lambs', depicting a truck full of shrieking cuddly animals being taken to slaughter, drives through the festival site during day two of the Glastonbury Festival in 2014.

Banksy graffiti in New York, 2013.

A Bonhams employee adjusts a spray paint work by urban artist Banksy at Bonhams auction house in London, June 24, 2013. 

Banksy's Graffiti in Clipstone Street, Camden, 2013.

Tags: Art