Banksy’s real identity is still unknown and while there’s been plenty of rumour and superstition as to the identity of the man or woman behind Britain’s best-known street art, solid indisputable facts remain illusive.
Banksy is thought have been born in Bristol, just 20 miles north west of Weston-super-Mare, in the early 1970s.
The artist may have run with one of the city’s prolific graffiti gangs, but their own work grew to prominence in the 1990s.
What we *think* we know
- Born in or around Bristol, and remains close to the south west of England
- Ran with one of the city’s prolific graffiti gangs in the 80s and 90s
- Gained prominence through innovative stencil art
- Moved to London in 2000, holding the break out ‘Turf War’ exhibition in 2003
What we don’t really know
- Whether Banksy is Robin Gunningham
- Whether Banksy works alone
- How much Banksy is worth
The unique provocative stencil-style graffiti had a controversial take on current affairs and political issues, marking Banksy out amongst his peers.
Away from Bristol, Banksy’s designs appeared in London, Brighton, across Kent, Liverpool and more recently on the West Bank and America’s east coast.
It wasn’t long until the appearance of ‘a Banksy’ became headline news in itself.
The acidic critiques of state surveillance, poverty, and capitalism became unmistakable – although copycats never strayed far.
A secretive company named Pest Control validates Banksy's artwork, and protects his identity. He uses the company to relentlessly control his own narrative, giving interviews via email or through a paper bag.
In 2008, The Mail on Sunday poured huge resources into a year-long investigation to uncover Banksy’s true identity.
It described Banksy as “the Scarlet Pimpernel” of modern art and told tales of celebrity clients and a near cult-like following, which it claimed saw fans attempt to trace DNA from discarded pizza boxes.
It named Banksy as Robin Gunningham, a 42-year-old born in 1973 at Bristol Maternity Hospital.
And it traced Gunningham’s school friends, who recall him being good at illustration, and more recent associates who buckled under pressure from investigators.
For the Mail, his identity was proved. And while for many the mystery surrounding the art had vanished, others simply weren’t convinced Banksy’s identity was truly Robin Gunningham.
But no official confirmation has been made.