- Sep 28, 2007
The Mail On Sunday take a little more of the fun out of life.
Banksy uncovered: The nice middle-class boy who 'became the graffiti guerrilla'
By James Tapper
Last updated at 11:48 PM on 12th July 2008
He is one of the art world’s most famous names – whose graffiti works sell for hundreds of thousands to fans including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
But for years the true identity of the artist Banksy has been a closely guarded secret, known to just a handful of friends.
Now a Mail on Sunday investigation has uncovered compelling evidence suggesting that the artist is former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham.
Enlarge In the frame: The man in this photograph, taken in Jamaica four years ago, is believed to be Banksy
Enlarge A Banksy artwork in Bethnal Green - a possible self-portrait?
The notion that Banksy is Gunningham, 34, who was educated at the £9,240-a-year Bristol Cathedral School, will shock the artist’s fans, fond of their hero’s ‘anti-establishment’ stance.
Banksy has become renowned for his use of stencils to spray illegal images on public walls. Some councils and businesses have begun to protect his creations and his works have been sold to celebrities, including Jolie and Pitt.
Rumours have persisted that the artist is called Robin Banks, that he is from Bristol, and that his parents think he is a painter and decorator.
The only concrete clue until now has been a photograph taken in Jamaica four years ago of a man with a bag of spray cans by his feet.
Gunningham’s former school pal Scott Nurse said: ‘He was one of three people in my year who were extremely talented at art. I am not at all surprised if he is Banksy.’
Records reveal Gunningham once lived with artist Luke Egan, who later exhibited with Banksy. Mr Egan initially denied knowing Gunningham but later admitted he had lived with him.
Mystery boy: Robin Gunningham in 1989 when he was a pupil at Bristol Cathedral School
Asked if he was saying Gunningham was not Banksy, Egan said: ‘Well, he wasn’t then.’
Around 2000, when Banksy moved to London, Gunningham relocated to a flat in Hackney. A number of Banksy’s most famous works have appeared nearby. At that time Gunningham lived with Jamie Eastman, who worked for the Hombre record label – which has used illustrations by Banksy.
People who know Gunningham are now unable to say what has become of him. His father Peter, who lives in Kingsdown, Bristol, denied that the man in the photograph was his son, and his mother Pamela was surprised by the picture, then denied she even had a son, let alone one called Robin.
Banksy’s publicist would neither confirm nor deny whether the artist was Robin Gunningham.