Banksy vs. King Robbo: Graffiti Wars Between Two Street Artists

King Robbo
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons User Matt Brown / CC BY 2.0

When art and war come together, the great art show is born. Street art has always been the shelter for the rebels, people who do not condone social absurdity and rampant corruption. However, sometimes, their ideals do not go hand in hand, and that is when a conflict arises. In 2009, the street art world witnessed the outbreak of war between two contemporary street artists – King Robbo and Banksy. What was the cause of the conflict? And who is the greatest Banksy’s rival in real life?

Graffiti wars: who is King Robbo?

John Robertson (1969-2014) was an English graffiti artist best known for his impressive street calligraphy art in London. To this day, only few of his works have survived, as the local authorities managed to destroy almost all pieces. Unlike Banksy, King Robbo was not an anonymous artist, meaning that we know much about his real identity and life. He is justifiably considered one of the most talented street artists so far.

Compared to Banksy art, King Robbo’s art did not get so much media coverage. From an artistic point of view, the artists’ approaches to creating street art are markedly different and incomparable, to say the least. While Banksy prefers stencils to paint images, Robertson mainly used traditional graffiti. For that reason, he is considered a towering figure in terms of old-school graffiti art.

The feud between the two takes its roots in the 1990s when Banksy and King Robbo presumably met each other in a bar. The first gave the latter attitude, which led to Banksy being slapped by Robertson. For many years, they would paint over the work of each other. The war found its end when John Robertson was left in a vegetative state after falling down a flight of stairs. In 2014, he passed away.

Banksy paid tribute to his art rival by listing the graffiti crews he was once a member of: “Robbo WRH WD PFB – RIP.”