After Twitter speculation picked up traction over the weekend, Neil Buchanan, former host of ITV’s Art Attack, had to issue an official statement informing fans the he is not famed street artist Banksy. “We have been inundated with [inquiries] over the weekend regarding the current social media story,” reads the update on Buchanan’s website “this website does not have the infrastructure to answer all these [inquiries] individually, however we can confirm that there is no truth in the rumour whatsoever.”
Buchanan hosted British children’s shows Finders Keepers and Art Attack in the 90s and early 00s, in between stints as a guitarist for the heavy metal band Marseille. According the BBC, the rumor began circulating when Twitter users observed a pattern: “Banksy artworks had sprung up in places where Buchanan’s former band Marseille played gigs.” This coincidence paired neatly with the fact that Buchanan encouraged wholly unique artistic projects during his 1990-2007 run as host of Art Attack. BBC reminisces on Buchanan’s many “ambitious, large scale artworks” crafted for the ITV children’s show “including a zoo scene made from sacks of vegetables; and a picture of a snail carved into a field by a lawnmower.”
Banksy, known for guerrilla political street art, has remained active and anonymous since the 90s, and a COVID-19 quarantine has not slowed the artist’s prolific output. Projects helmed by Banksy this summer include a since-removed graffiti encouraging Londoners to wear face masks on the London Underground Train and a tribute to the National Health Services etched onto the foyer of Southampton General Hospital (pictured below, via Instagram). BBC additionally reports that the artist funded a boat rescue for North African refuges endangered in an effort to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
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Conversely, Buchanan has spent his time in quarantine “with vulnerable members of his family”, according to the rumor-clarifying statement released on his website Monday. Though Buchanan may not be Banksy, art has similarly played an important role in his COVID-19 lockdown. In addition to spending time with family, Buchanan’s site reports that the former Art Attack host has spent his quarantine “preparing to launch his new art collection in 2021.”
An official statement on Buchanan’s website has not entirely quelled the rumors the he may, indeed, be Banksy. Fans have had their fun with the rumor on Twitter, sharing screenshots of Buchanan in front of his many elaborate and outdoor Art Attack projects. On Monday, after releasing his statement, an unlikely ally sprung to Buchanan’s defense. Game of Thrones actor John Bradley West insisted that Buchanan could not be Banksy, admirably jesting that the projects he created on Art Attack were far more innovative than Banksy’s body of work.
Neil Buchanan is NOT Banksy. Could Banksy use cardboard tubes from old toilet rolls and different coloured ping pong balls to make a trap so you could tell if anybody had been in your room while you’d been out? I think we know the answer to that. It’s ‘no’. #neilbuchanan
— John Bradley (@johnbradleywest) September 7, 2020
Buchanan joins the ranks of many renowned artists and cultural figures who have been rumored to be Banksy over the past three decades. However, with the Art Attack host officially dispelling the rumor, the street artist’s anonymous status remains intact.