Is the secretive street artist Banksy actually a fedora-sporting middle-aged white guy who dresses “inconspicuous” when he goes out stenciling? That certainly seems to be the case if the photo snapped by 24-year-old British tourist Jason Stellios and published by the Daily Mail is to be believed.
The image shows a man in cargo shorts, sneakers, and a white fedora looking over his shoulder as he stands next to a fresh Banksy piece, which currently greets visitors to the artist’s website. Painted in a doorway near the Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, the mock holiday message reads: “Peace on Earth *terms and conditions apply.” The man holds a can of spray paint and a stencil in the shape of a star matching the one in the mural.
“Last week I was coming out of the Milk Grotto Church through the courtyard and I saw a guy spray painting a star on a door opposite using a stencil,” Stellios told the Daily Mail. “Then I spotted the same guy wearing a white hat with a black stripe on it tucked away at the back of the AlterNativity play outside the Walled Off Hotel [Banksy’s art hotel in Bethlehem] on [December 3]. … I was chatting with people after the play and they said that they wanted to go see the new Banksy piece which I didn’t know about and I went in a cab with them up to the church. … ‘I then realized I saw this being spray painted a few days earlier.”
The man in Stellios’s photo resembles the figure at the center of another ostensible Banksy sighting, which occurred last April, when a woman filmed a man she claimed was Banksy working on an exhibition in a mall north of Tel Aviv. The resemblance is striking — perhaps too striking? — from the stubble-y chin and bags under the eyes to the same white fedora and apparent preference for cargo pockets.
Though the identity of the man in the Bethlehem photo and the Tel Aviv mall video remains unknown, a popular theory holds that Banksy is in fact many people working in different parts of the world under the guidance of a single coordinator — possibly Robert Del Naja of the band Massive Attack. Perhaps, then, the man in the fedora is simply the Israeli branch of the artist known as Banksy? Or, as Del Naja put it last year: “We are all Banksy!”