The Real Banksy?

by | July 14, 2008

According to an article yesterday in the U.K.'s The Mail on Sunday newspaper (sister-publication to the Daily Mail), the identity of the world's most famous street artist, Banksy (pictured), may have been uncovered. The relative merits of his work aside, this is big news: Since breaking onto the scene in the early '00s, the self-proclaimed "art terrorist" had managed to keep his true identity top-secret, making the Banksy guessing-game one of the favorite pastimes of the tabloid-heavy British press. For its part, the Daily Mail--one of England's more conservative papers--couldn't be happier how the search has ended: The left-leaning "graffiti guerilla" (who famously tagged sections of the security wall separating Israel and the West Bank) turns out to be from about as mainstream an English background as one could imagine: suburban, white, mid-30s, and educated at the elite Bristol Cathedral School. His real name? Robin Gunningham. Conservatives and aesthetic traditionalists will likely now breathe a collective sigh of relief, as the anti-capitalist "vandal"--hailed by fans as "the next Warhol"--is shown to be just a boring old bloke from Bristol. Should this revelation disappoint his loyal followers? Perhaps not. As one sympathetic Banksy-hunter once suggested, given the artist's constant efforts to evade convenient labeling, it would not be surprising if he turned to be the exact opposite of what we expected:

I was at some locked-door after-hours party, partaking in some highly illegal activity with my art friends, when all of a sudden a fifth guy shows up with a twelver of Carlsberg. At first I didn't pay too much attention to this new guy, but in the back of my head, I kept on saying to myself, Who is this guy? and Why is he here? I stared at him for a minute. I ran down the mental checklist: five foot five, doesn't dress or look like a graffiti artist, reserved, quiet, chill, watcher not a talker, white, the last guy you'd ever expect, et cetera. Jesus, this guy totally fit the profile. I reached over really secretively and tapped the shoulder of the guy next to me. "Dude, that guy is Banksy..."

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 --James Martin

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/the-real-banksy