Banksy: is artist Robin Gunningham from Bristol - could their identity be unmasked in High Court battle?

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The elusive graffiti artist Banksy has managed to keep their identity hidden for more than two decades

Banksy is arguably the most famous graffiti artist in the world, but their identity has always remained a mystery.

People have made their guesses over the years - with the most popular theory being that Banksy is a man called Robin Gunningham - but nothing has ever been proven, and the artist has never come forward to reveal themselves. However, the era of secrecy could soon be over, as Mail Online has claimed that Banksy could soon be unmasked in the High Court.

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The newspaper reported that Gunningham, 50, whom many believe to be Banksy, has been named as the first defendant in legal action accusing him of defamation. Meanwhile, Gunningham’s co-defendant is the company which sells Banksy’s art - jokingly named Pest Control Ltd.

The person initiating the case is Andrew Gallagher, 56, an iconoclastic entrepreneur who started out in the music industry before later exploiting the commercial potential of graffiti. Neither Mr Gallagher nor his lawyer Aaron Wood, of Brandsmiths, have disclosed any further information.

Banksy has not publicly commented either, nor have they ever made any move to confirm their identity. But what exactly do we know? Here are some of the most popular theories about the graffiti artist, before their real name could potentially be revealed once and for all.

Handout photo of £6 million work by the artist Banksy being brought to the foyer for The Art of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London. Issue Date: Tuesday 12 September, 2023. Credit: Ryan Howard /PA Wire Handout photo of £6 million work by the artist Banksy being brought to the foyer for The Art of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London. Issue Date: Tuesday 12 September, 2023. Credit: Ryan Howard /PA Wire
Handout photo of £6 million work by the artist Banksy being brought to the foyer for The Art of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London. Issue Date: Tuesday 12 September, 2023. Credit: Ryan Howard /PA Wire | Ryan Howard /PA Wire

Who is Banksy?

It is believed that Banksy is from Bristol, as that is where much of their art first started appearing in the early 2000s. There is also evidence to suggest that Banksy is a man based on a 2003 interview the artist gave to ITV News.

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Scant little else is known about the artist. Here are some of the main theories about who Banksy could be:

Robin Gunningham

  • One of the first people who was thought to be Banksy, Gunningham is a Bristolian graffiti artist - although not much else is known about him.
  • This theory remains the most plausible, with several of Gunningham’s associates and former schoolmates corroborating the claims.
  • In addition to this, a 2016 study by researchers at the Queen Mary University of London used geographic profiling, and found that the incidence of Banksy’s works correlated with the known movements of Gunningham.

Robert Del Naja

  • The Massive Attack founder, also known as 3D, is also a graffiti artist from Bristol.
  • People thought the DJ Goldie may have outed Del Naja in a 2017 interview when he said he had “flipped the world of art over”, but others argued this may be because he had been cited as an inspiration by Banksy himself.

Neil Buchanan

  • The Art Attack host was once briefly (and possibly half-jokingly) believed to be the mystery artist by people speculating on Twitter, now X.
  • Buchanan has denied being Banksy.

Billy Gannon

  • Pembroke Dock councillor Gannon was rumoured to be Banksy in 2022.
  • The claims forced his resignation from the role, as the speculation was affecting his ability to carry out his duties.
  • Speaking at the time, Gannon said: "I’m being asked to prove who I am not, and the person that I am not may not exist. I mean, how am I supposed to prove that I’m not somebody who doesn’t exist? Just how do you do that?"

A collective of artists

  • Who said Banksy had to be one person?

Why is Banksy anonymous?

According to an early interview given to Simon Hattenstone, a journalist at The Guardian, anonymity is “vital” to Banksy - simply because graffiti is illegal. “The day he goes public is the day the graffiti ends.”

That same article describes Banksy as “white, 28, scruffy casual - jeans, T-shirt, a silver tooth, silver chain, and silver earring. He looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.”

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