We revealed Banksy’s name 15 years ago, so why was the artsy set still claiming it was a mystery last week? A privately trained man named Robin Gunningham… Is it because it’s hard to slap millions of dollars on your own doodles?

He is a figurehead in the country’s loquacious classrooms and art world, famously celebrated for creating works that poke fun at the establishment while concealing his true identity.

under a pseudonym banksy, he became a global star with an estimated fortune of £50 million. His “Girl with a Balloon” is more popular than John Constable’s “Hey Wayne” and has been described as “America’s most beloved work of art.” The results come from a poll based on a list compiled by arts writers, including media correspondents for the Observer.

But behind this hero-worship lurks terrible hypocrisy.

Banksy’s reputation and financial traction rely on the mystique of his anonymity. And although Banksy’s real name has been publicly known for 15 years thanks to an investigation by the Mail on Sunday, Banksy’s flattered fans are trying to ignore this fact.

Instead of calling him by his real name, Robin Gunningham, there is a surreal omerta in which his true identity is deliberately camouflaged.

Massive Attack's Robin Gunningham and Robert Del Naja

Massive Attack’s Robin Gunningham and Robert Del Naja

Banksy’s “Love is in the trash”

Art experts say this allows him to capitalize on his carefully cultivated image as the “Scarlet Pimpernel of modern art” and make even more money as someone who wears his street cred like a hair shirt. He says it can be done.

Michelle Borsma, curator of the Banksy Art exhibition on London’s Regent Street, is “sure” people don’t want to know who the Robin Hood of the art is.

he says: “The public doesn’t want the mystery to end, because it’s a nice fairy tale.” The art world doesn’t want his identity to be known. Because that would take away the mystique. And mystery makes money. ”

It wasn’t until 2008 that the Ministry of Justice revealed Banksy’s real name, along with a photo of him holding a paint spray can on the street. But the new work of “street artist and political activist” Banksy is undoubtedly far more valuable than that of Robin Gunningham, a 50-year-old former schoolboy from a happy middle-class family.

The artist’s story was revisited in BBC Radio 4’s 10-part podcast ‘The Banksy Story’ released earlier this year. Last week, a podcast rebroadcast the “Lost Banksy Interview” recorded in 2003.

Thanks to an investigation by the Mail on Sunday, Banksy’s real name has been publicly known for 15 years, but his fawning fans are trying to ignore this fact.

A BBC Entertainment editor who interviewed Gunningham during a debate 20 years ago seems to take his claim that his real name is “Robbie Banks” with a grain of salt, an obvious reference to Robin Hood. It’s a play on the idea of ​​a folk hero who steals from people. The rich give to the poor.

According to the podcast, the interview was recorded in the run-up to the artist’s 30th birthday, during the opening of his debut exhibition, Turf War, at a warehouse in Hackney, east London.

The program featured a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II dressed as a chimpanzee, a portrait of Winston Churchill wearing a grass mohawk, and two live pigs painted on the blue and white checks worn by Metropolitan Police officers. .

Banksy said in an interview that his work is a “celebration of vandalism.” “It’s about justice,” she added. Maybe that’s why I like to flip it on its head a little bit, because if you’ve been in the justice system, you become very skeptical of everything. I’m interested in figuring out who is really a good person. ”

He also admits he’s a criminal, saying, “If you do it properly, it’s illegal.”

North London artwork attributed to guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy photographed on Essex Road, Islington on March 4, 2008

Banksy’s “Flying Copper” to be exhibited at the “Banksy Art” exhibition to be held on May 17, 2023

Five years later, an investigation by the Ministry of Justice, which spoke to dozens of friends, former colleagues, flatmates and family members, revealed that Banksy did not suddenly retreat from inner-city public land. Instead, the artist is the son of former contracts manager Peter Gunningham and his wife, board secretary Pamela, and grew up in one of Bristol’s most elegant areas. It’s hard to imagine Banksy, an anti-authoritarian rebel, wandering around a 17th-century former abbey as a public school student at Bristol Cathedral School. However, his fellow students remember Gunningham as a talented artist.

“He was very talented in the arts,” said Scott Nurse, an insurance broker who was his classmate. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was Banksy. ”

While at school, Gunningham became interested in graffiti, known as 3D, inspired by Robert Del Naja of local band Massive Attack, who was considered one of Bristol’s first graffiti artists. The two have since become friends and MoS has discovered photos of them together.

In a 2006 interview with pop culture magazine Swindle, Banksy said, “When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was busy drawing pictures in the city,” while displaying a prop-like image of his hideout. Ta.

“He had gone to New York and I think he was the first person to bring spray painting back to Bristol. I grew up seeing spray paint in the city long before I saw it in magazines or on computers. ..I loved doodling at school…everyone was doing it.”

Gunningham dropped out of school at age 16 and began dabbling in street art.

The following year, as part of Operation Anderson, undercover operations arrested 72 artists across the UK on charges of criminal damage. Among those arrested was Tom Bingle, a graffiti artist who is acknowledged to be Banksy’s accomplice and now runs his own art company, Inky. he was acquitted.

Instead of calling him by his real name, Robin Gunningham, there is a surreal omerta in which his real identity is deliberately camouflaged.

Love is in the Air (Fflower Thrower) by Banksy

Gunningham was never arrested and there is no record of him being arrested. However, the artist confessed that he was helped by the fact that his name was kept a mystery until it was revealed by the police, by which time he had become an expert at evading the police.

In his book Walls and Fragments, Banksy says, “When I was 18, I spent one night painting the words “Late again” in large silver bubble letters on the side of a passenger train.” The British Transport Police showed up and tore me to shreds as I fled through the thorny bushes.

“The rest of us got lost when we got to the car, so we spent over an hour hiding under a dump truck with engine oil leaking all over us.”

By 2003, Banksy was living in London and began using stencils, developing distinctive and recognizable images such as rats and police officers that conveyed an anti-authoritarian message. In October of the same year, he sneaked into the Tate Gallery dressed as a pensioner and pasted pictures on the walls. The image was there for two and a half hours.

He had arrived.

Since then, he has photographed singer Christina Aguilera, who owns pornographic photos depicting prostitutes and Queen Victoria, and the actress who put a spin on Manet’s painting of 15 starving people watching a white family lunch under an umbrella. He sold his work to Angelina Jolie. African. He also created the artwork for Blur’s album Think Tank. In 2006, Gunningham married Joy Millward, a former research associate for Labor MP Austin Mitchell, in Las Vegas.

Since then he has gone on to amass a multi-million pound fortune.

The most expensive work to be sold at auction is Love Is In The Bin, which sold for £18.6 million at Sotheby’s in 2021.

An adaptation of his 2002 mural Girl with Balloons, which gained notoriety in 2018 after it self-destructed within seconds of being sold for more than £1 million, sliding down the bottom of the frame and shattering it. It has become expensive.

After being identified by the Ministry of Justice, Banksy did not deny it, but said: “I cannot comment on who is or is not Banksy.”

Some of the work Banski created in his bathroom during lockdown. The artist captioned the social media post: “My wife doesn’t like me working from home.”

But in 2016, scientists at London’s Queen Mary University of London found that using “geographical profiling”, typically used to catch criminals or track the spread of disease, Gunningham was “the only significant He said he was a suspect.

They plotted the locations of an estimated 192 of Banksy’s works and found “hotspots” that correlated with pubs, playgrounds and homes closely associated with Gunningham, his friends and family.

The following year, the MoS photographed the artist wearing a high-visibility jacket while working on one of his works, a giant white rat painted on the derelict Whitehorse pub in Liverpool in 2004. discovered.

The photographer, shot by Christopher Wilson, said “no one can ignore the evidence now” regarding Gunningham’s identity.

And in 2018, two pieces of artwork – Gunningham’s signature on the cassette sleeve of an album by Bristol band Mother Samosa – were sold by internet dealer MyArtBroker for an estimated price of £4,000.

The album was recorded in a studio in Bristol by Martin Smith, who said: “I remember him.” [Gunningham] Go out on a bicycle with a basket of stencils in front. He said to me, “I’m going to change his name to Robin Banks.” What do you think? ‘ Smith encouraged him to do so, and Banksy said in a 2003 interview that his name was ‘Robbie Banks’.

Earlier this month, it was expected that a £1.4m defamation claim against Banksy would lead to formal unmasking.

Turf war by Banksy

The lawsuit was filed by Andrew Gallagher, a graffiti photographer and owner of art licensing company Full Color Black. The company has collaborated with clothing brand Guess on the “Graffiti by Banksy” shop window featuring the famous work “Flower Bomber”.

In response, Banksy wrote on Instagram: “Attention all shoplifters. Go to Guess on Regent Street. They helped me with my work without asking for anything. Their clothes. Why is it wrong to do the same thing?”

Gallagher claims the message was “understood to imply that he had stolen Banksy’s work without his permission”.

If Banksy were to submit a defense, he would have been required to provide his real name, but the deadline has passed.

According to MyArtBroker, “Part of Banksy’s veneration is due to his anonymity.” His anonymity is inherent to the brand.

“Perhaps it is the sensationalism of so-called ‘genius artists’ that arouses our curiosity, or perhaps it is because the artist’s identity is so fundamental to the meaning of his work. not.”

Indeed, “Cult of Banksy” has a much better ring to it than “Cult of Robin Gunningham” and has far more commercial potential.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-12790977/banksy-art-mystery-privately-educated-robin-gunningham.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 We revealed Banksy’s name 15 years ago, so why was the artsy set still claiming it was a mystery last week? A privately trained man named Robin Gunningham… Is it because it’s hard to slap millions of dollars on your own doodles?

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