5 Graffiti Artists Whose Names We May Never Know
In the early days of graffiti, keeping a low profile was important to avoid run-ins with police. Outside of your crew, most people wouldn’t know who you really were. Today there’s a big market for street artists as public figures. Publicity isn’t for everyone, here are five graffiti artists who’ve kept things private.
In the art world the identity of Alec Monopoly isn’t really a mystery. The guy has managed to carve out a niche of staying right on the edge of the public eye without giving too much away. Early on Alec decided to keep his identity a secret while still working in New York. He did this to keep ahead of the NYPD Vandal Squad who had chased him through exhibitions and down garbage chutes in the city. It may have just been paranoia with Alec thinking they were tapping his phone, he made the claim before Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents. Now the claims seem a lot more reasonable.
His worries were enough to spur a move to LA where he really made a name for himself. He graffitied billboards and spread his top hat clad image around enough for people to take notice.
Right now you can find him on Instagram, just about covering his face while posing with his pieces.
The obvious entry to the list, part of Banksy’s big appeal is the mystery. He’s a good artist but it’s hard to imagine he’d have the same appeal if we knew the likely middle aged, British face of street art. He’s the most famous of today’s graffiti artists, not just the anonymous ones.
It’s impressive that he’s managed to retain this much secrecy with the interest that he’s generated. There are few artists who can get the kind of price tags attached to their work that Banksy has. The ones who can are publically involved in getting the art there.
Dede is an artist with a very good reason to keep his name from the public. The Israeli artist spent time in the army during the compulsory military service period in Israel. After he left, his graffiti became very political with anti-establishment messages. Images of Bandaids and peace symbolism come through all his work and make Dede’s intentions very clear.
Tel Aviv has realistically just found its feet in terms of street art so seeing a distinct voice like this is a great step. The unfortunate side is that it puts an artist who needs to stay off the radar in the middle of everyone’s lens. Whatever experiences during his service prompted Dede to make the art he’s making, it’s sick to see someone with a voice standing up.
Not only is Black Hand’s name unknown, people aren’t even sure about the artist’s gender. Black Hand has been referred to as the Iranian Banksy for their pieces which take on social issues and some pretty weird topics.
Iran is the only country in the world where you can legally sell your organs, that’s one of many things Black Hand has gone after. Literally selling off parts of your body is a dangerous game where poorer people can be put at serious risk in an attempt to make money.
A lot of the artist’s attention centres around sexism and gendered segregation. One piece in particular, a woman in a football jersey holding a bottle of washing up liquid as a trophy, caused controversy. The piece ended up being destroyed in red paint and removed making it clear how high tensions are in the areas Black Hand works in.
Graffiti isn’t technically illegal in Iran but graffiti artists there have instead faced Police Officers who come after them for other charges to make up for it. With no graffiti laws explicitly, trespassing and other charges get bumped up and the scene is a lot more dangerous for artists.
The Toynbee Tiler
This one doesn’t really fit a list of graffiti artists. It’s barely even street art to be honest but it’s too weird to pass by. The tile mosaic message itself isn’t much more than some abstract words. What’s made it so interesting is that the tiles have popped up in places all over the world.
The tiles usually contain some variation of the phrase:
IN MOViE `2001
ON PLANET JUPITER
The tiles began appearing in the eighties and continued showing up around the US throughout the nineties. They seemed to centre around part of a book by Arnold Toynbee speaking about resurrection as well as the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The man behind the tiles has remained a mystery for over 30 years despite journalists attempts to track him down. The one time it seemed like there was a lead, the guy died with tiles still being made.
It’s unlikely that his name will be found after this long even with all the people still looking for him.