Did DJ Goldie just call Robert Del Naja Banksy?

Trip-hop band Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja has been cited as an influence for elusive graffiti activist Banksy, whose work includes a mural (above) depicting a workman chipping away at a star on a European Union flag in England.
Trip-hop band Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja has been cited as an influence for elusive graffiti activist Banksy, whose work includes a mural (above) depicting a workman chipping away at a star on a European Union flag in England.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Trip-hop band Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja (above) has been cited as an influence for elusive graffiti activist Banksy, whose work includes a mural depicting a workman chipping away at a star on a European Union flag in England.
Trip-hop band Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja (above) has been cited as an influence for elusive graffiti activist Banksy, whose work includes a mural depicting a workman chipping away at a star on a European Union flag in England.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • An unguarded moment in an interview has renewed speculation about one of contemporary art's great mysteries - could elusive graffiti activist Banksy be Robert Del Naja of the band Massive Attack?

Goldie, a well-known DJ who was a friend and competitor of Del Naja's as the two sprayed Bristol in south-west England with graffiti in the 1980s, made an apparent slip of the tongue in a recent interview.

He was speaking with dismay of the high prices that could be fetched by Banksy, whose signature is politically provocative graffiti that appears suddenly on walls around the world.

"Give me a bubble letter and put it on a T-shirt and write 'Banksy' on it and we're sorted... We can sell it now," Goldie told the Distraction Pieces podcast.

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"No disrespect to Rob. I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over," he said, before pausing and switching the conversation to music.

Del Naja has often been speculated to be Banksy, who makes only shadowy appearances with his face and voice concealed.

Banksy has cited Del Naja as an influence. In an article last year, writer Craig Williams noted that several Banksy pieces emerged in locations shortly after Massive Attack concerts.

In 2008, however, The Mail on Sunday concluded after interviewing friends that Banksy was Robin Gunningham, another artist from Bristol.

Banksy often produces art in charged political settings. In 2015, the artist painted a mural in the Calais migrant camp. The work, The Son Of A Migrant From Syria, depicts Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - who was of Syrian descent - clutching a bag of belongings and an Apple computer.

Banksy also painted a series of images on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, including one depicting a vacation setting with palm trees.

Del Naja - who goes by the moniker 3D - and Goldie were two of the leading figures in Bristol's graffiti movement in the 1980s, which took inspiration from the burgeoning hip-hop scene in New York.

Massive Attack, led by Del Naja and Daddy G, helped create Bristol's trip-hop sound which brought dark electronic layers to hip-hop.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Did DJ Goldie just call Robert Del Naja Banksy?'. Print Edition | Subscribe