23 October 1969
England, United Kingdom
|Died||31 July 2014 (aged 44)|
London, England, UK
King Robbo (born John Robertson, 23 October 1969 – 31 July 2014) was an English underground graffiti artist. His feud with the artist Banksy was the subject of a Channel 4 television documentary called Graffiti Wars, first shown in August 2011.
Robbo painted his first train in 1985 and the ‘Merry Christmas’ train of 1988, a joint piece created with "Drax WD", receiving national coverage on ITV News and in The Independent newspaper.
Feud with Banksy
In 1985, 15-year-old King Robbo painted a graffiti work under the British Transport Police Headquarters on a wall beside Regent's Canal in Camden, London which was only accessible by water. A large full colour graffiti piece, called "Robbo Incorporated", it had over the years become the oldest piece of graffiti in London. Over time, virtually all of his works had been gradually removed from London's trains and walls by authorities, except for this piece. By 2009, Robbo Incorporated had become partially obscured under other grafitti painted over it. In that year, the English stencil artist Banksy converted it into a picture of a workman pasting wallpaper, replacing more than half the original in the process.
King Robbo has stated that Banksy was introduced to him for the first time in the 1990s, commenting: "I was at a place called the Dragon Bar on Old Street. I was introduced to a couple of guys who were like '[W]hoa it's nice to meet you!'. When I was introduced to Banksy, I went 'Oh yeah I've heard of you mate, how you doing?' and he went '[W]ell I've never heard of you'...he dismissed me as a nobody, as nothing. So with that I slapped him and went '[O]h what you ain't heard of me? [Y]ou won't forget me now will you?' [A]nd with that he picked up his glasses and ran off."
On Christmas Day 2009 Robbo reclaimed his piece from Banksy's defacing by covering the work so the workman appeared to be painting "KING ROBBO" in silver letters. Three days later the letters "FUC" appeared before the word "KING". Tit-for-tat overpainting continued at the site with artwork and insults including a picture of Top Cat leaning on a gravestone with the words "R.I.P. Banksy's career".
This incident led to online arguments and a graffiti war with many of Banksy's other works being altered by "Team Robbo" - notable ones including the piece Hitchhiker to Anywhere where the "anywhere" was changed to "going nowhere".
In 2014 LDNGraffiti published an illustrated timeline of the feud.
In 2015 Banksy included a piece dedicated to Robbo in the Dismaland exhibition.
Injury, coma and death
On 2 April 2011 King Robbo sustained a life-threatening head injury five days prior to his exhibition at the Signal Gallery, Shoreditch: 'Team Robbo - The Sell Out Tour'. It is believed the injury happened as a result of an accidental fall. Robbo was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of 10 stairs outside his flat in King's Cross. In November 2011, three months after the airing of the Channel 4 documentary Graffiti Wars, the Camden Robbo mural was painted over with a black and white depiction of the original with the additions of a crown and a can of spray paint with a hazard symbol of a flame above it. It was painted by Banksy as "a tribute to him and as an effort to end the feud in a sense of lighting a candle for Robbo who was still in comatose condition". The mural was restored to its original form with slight changes by the other members of "Team Robbo" on 24 December 2011, Christmas Eve. The restoration has since peeled away to leave the black and white tribute to Robbo, as of September 2012.
Robbo died on July 31, 2014, having never recovered from his original injury or regaining consciousness.
- ^ "Banksy's rival King Robbo died of head injury, inquest hears". 5 December 2014 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- ^ "King Robbo - obituary". The Telegraph. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^ a b "Veteran graffiti artist King Robbo dies aged 45". BBC. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- ^ Graffiti Wars on YouTube
- ^ "RIP KING ROBBO". Bucky Turco. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- ^ a b Evans, Daniel Banksy calls for graffiti show inquiry Western Daily Press 7 September 2011
- ^ "The Banksy vs Robbo War in Pictures". 12 January 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2023.
- ^ Marcus Williamson, "Life in Brief: King Robbo Graffiti Artist". i, 21 Aug, 2014. 12.
- ^ Jo Fuertes-Knight. "My Graffiti War with Banksy By King Robbo". Sabotage Times. Archived from the original on 19 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- ^ a b Matilda Battersby (21 April 2011). "The gloves are off: Graffiti legend King Robbo has resurfaced to settle a score with Banksy". The Independent. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- ^ "Banksy vs King Robbo (Street art vs Graffiti)". 17 October 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- ^ "LDN Blog - Banksy vs Robbo - Timeline updated: 01/08/2014". www.ldngraffiti.co.uk.
- ^ Cotton, Steve (22 September 2015). "A visit to Banksy's Dismaland with Sleaford Mods". Crossfire. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
- ^ "Banksy rival 'died of head injury'". 5 December 2014 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- ^ "'Robbo inc.' returns courtesy of Banksy?". Street Art London. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
- ^ a b "Robbo Piece Reproduced by Team Robbo (Camden)". London Street Art Design Magazine, Issue 8 - Walls of Perception OUT NOW. 11 January 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
- ^ "Banksy - Questions". Banksy Official Site. 12 November 2011. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- ^ Jon Hammer (29 December 2011). "Winter Warmer- Robbo Ruin Restored!". Jon Hammer - Painting and Graffiti. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
- ^ "Banksy vs Team Robbo - Timeline". LDNGraffiti. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012.