There was a time when famous writers adopted pseudonyms for that added sense of mysticism and aura.
Though they would resort to alternative names time and again to slide past the limelight and avoid all the buzz, their creations continued to amaze the audience. If you thought this trend was something of the past, think again. Today, there are several anonymous artists who don’t reveal their identities and this is what makes them unique.
Speaking of great examples of how writers adopted pseudonyms, Agatha Christie often wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott while C.S. Lewis adopted the pen name of Clive Hamilton and NW Clerk. Even famous painters hopped on to this idea. For instance, Michelangelo Merisi may not sound familiar, but his pseudonym Caravaggio is ubiquitous.
A number of today’s modern artists and creators, too, have taken to pseudonyms and have been tight-lipped about their true identities. Owing to the ever-growing digital realm and a huge upswing of online markets, there are several artists who don’t reveal their identities at all.
They, in fact, go to great lengths to keep their personal details hidden from the hawk-eyed investigators of the internet. This has led to the build up of conspiracy theories, wild notions and even conjectures by fans who leave no stones unturned to unearth information and details about these artists.
(Main and feature image credit: Banksy/ @banksy/ Instagram)
The Mysterious Artists Who Don’t Want To Reveal Their Identities
Portraying dark humour and expressing strong political views, Banksy’s street art has been a rage all over the world. The England-based anonymous artist has been active since the 1990s and continues to remain an elusive identity.
The British graffiti artist has millions of followers on social media. Patrons and collectors are ready to pay large sums for his artwork. But he is not particularly in favor of monetising the anonymous art.
It was initially said that the main reason why Banksy keeps his identity a mystery is because graffiti is illegal and by this the artist can evade all the trouble. However, with the massive popularity and influence of his politically charged pieces, Banksy is no longer an unknown name. It is considered that being anonymous will allow his followers to absorb the political message and be a part of the art without any judgments.
Banksy has a very distinct style of art which is easily recognisable, but he only claims it officially when it appears on his social media account.
He started out as a stencil graffiti artist but is no longer confined just to street art. Banksy has a number of paintings, drawings, installations and even a theme park called ‘Dismaland’ to his credit. One of his most famous and important art was the one unveiled on Valentine’s Day, 2020 that shows a young girl firing red plastic flowers from a catapult on a Bristol house.
In 2020 the artist grabbed headlines when he came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. A video went viral where he was offered to sell t-shirts across Bristol in support of those accused in the incident of toppling the statue of Edward Colston, an English slave trader. The shirts were originally sold for 25 GBP or USD 33 but were later resold for nearly USD 4,000.
Being anonymous is not easy or feasible for musicians and performers. However, Daft Punk duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter wear metallic helmets to remain anonymous, and today it is their cult symbol.
Having worked together for 28 years from 1993, the music group has given some incredible EDM numbers to the world. When they announced their split with an almost eight-minute-long video titled ‘Daft Punk- Epilogue‘ on 22 February 2021, the one question that plagued the minds of fans was if Homem-Christo and Bangalter would remove their masks.
There have been various speculations regarding why the two have donned their metallic helmets and what their faces look like. While some suggest it is because of probable shyness, others owe it to the kind of music they create and how it helps them to be in sync with their work.
Whatever be the reason, fans were rather happy to see Daft Punk wear the iconic gold and silver helmets one last time in the video.
Elena Ferrante is a modern writer who has taken the anonymity game very seriously. Refraining from the limelight and social media presence, Ferrante is known for her works and books which have garnered global attention.
Her first novel, Troubling Lovewas published in 1991 but she gained massive popularity after the tremendous success of her series of four Neapolitan novels that were released between 2012 and 2015. In fact, the last of the four books, The Story of the Lost Childwas nominated for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.
One of the bestselling authors of modern times, Elena Ferrante’s real name or identity remains a secret and her fans and followers respect her that way. However, a controversy sparked when journalist Claudio Gatti wrote in the New York Review Of Books where he identified the author as Italian translator Anita Raja. The whole incident turned quite big as the writer’s publisher and fans called it intrusive and an infringement of her privacy.
Pushing the boundaries of creativity and blending art and technology is what characterizes the works of Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone. Rainbow effects of a prism and black and white glitches take the center stage in his artworks and installations.
However, the young artist has kept his face a secret. Creating ripples across the globe, his tech-based digital art has captivated all those who have been curious about modern art. With numerous solo shows across various countries, Felipe Pantone is a popular name in the field of futuristic digitized art.
When asked about why the artist’s identity and face is a secret, Felipe told Hypebest, “In my case I just want when people Google my name they see my artwork, not my face. I design carefully every piece (of) visual content that I make and that talks way more about me than my face, which I didn’t choose.”
One of his most famous works is the 2018 Datafall in Moscow. Others include the 2016 Cyberspazio Tubolare installation in Rome, the 2018 W3-Dimensional-BKK piece at the Siam Center in Bangkok and a 98-foot tall functional QR code in Belgium.
One of the well known street artists from Australia, @lushsux is creating a lot of buzz in the global arena of modern art. He is also the only Australian artist invited to collaborate on ‘Dismaland’. According to drp.io, having “done all there is to do” in the world of street art @lushsux made a new category for himself — memes — and started the Meme Art Movement. Memes have gained massive popularity and have become an integral part of communication, social media and other movements today.
His memes have included other artists and famous faces, while his own remains a mystery. For instance, well known rapper 50 Cent became his muse and he made several drawings and graffiti featuring Donald Trump, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and Post Malone in 2021. Though the drawings received mixed reactions, it did not stop the artist.
Not just street art and memes, @lushsux has made a name for himself in the NFT world as well with his works being celebrated by the likes of Banksy and Beeple.
Talking to Hypebestabout why he keeps his identity a mystery, @lushsux said, “I’d rather have people who follow the work to be more interested in it than what pair of USD 800 sunglasses I wear or how twirled my moustache is.”
Fashion and obscurity may not sound like words that can be put in a single sentence but trust ace designer Martin Margiela to nail it. Since the beginning of his career in 1988, the Belgian designer hasn’t taken a bow, sat down for an interview or even posed for a picture. All interviews of this mysterious artist were done via fax and mails.
He is known for his post-modern, anti-fashion styles. He would often take apart old silhouettes and redesign them with unique techniques like slashing and bleaching.
In 2009, he announced his retirement but made a comeback with an exhibition at the Lafayette Anticipations gallery in Paris that was held from 20 October 2021 to 2 January 2022. The exhibition showcased over 20 items that included installations, sculptures, collages, paintings and films .
In April 2020, a documentary based on his life, journey and anonymity, titled Martin Margiela: In His Own Words was released on demand and it carried the designer’s voice overs. In this Reiner Holzemer directorial, he explained, “Anonymity is very important to me. It balances me that I am like everybody else. I always wanted to have my name linked to the product I created, not to the face I have.”