Inside hunt to unmask Banksy & three clues that led to public schoolboy Robin Gunningham being 'named' as graffiti icon | The Sun

THE desperate search to uncover Banksy's real name has been ongoing for decades.

Ever since emerging on the art scene in the late 1990s, the elusive artist – who found fame on the streets of Bristol with his distinct style of stencilled graffiti images – has remained anonymous.

The artist's identity would remain a mystery for almost a decade, until three key clues saw public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, 53, "outed" as the graffiti-touting icon.

Yet his identity was never officially confirmed.

Banksy once told Swindle magazine: "I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated a**holes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is."

Now, Mr Gunningham has been named in a High Court legal action accusing him of defamation.

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The latest development comes decades after a series of clues led Mail on Sunday investigators to name Mr Gunningham as the previously anonymous artist.

Street art and graffiti can be considered criminal damage, so initially it is thought the artist chose to be anonymous to avoid a run-in with the law.

Mr Gunningham appeared to move alongside Banksy's artwork, was allegedly pictured at work in Jamaica, and moved out of a house left filled with graffiti.

Banksy's rise to fame came in the early noughties, with a series of shocking artworks that grabbed media attention.

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Despite the popular stencilled artworks first appearing only in his hometown of Bristol, the distinct style of graffiti started spreading.

From Bristol it moved to London, Brighton, and abroad – including Palestine and Ukraine. You can see a full list of Banksy's street work here.

And as the art moved, Mr Gunningham moved too – further adding to the theory he was the creator.


In 1998 Mr Gunningham was living in Easton, Bristol, with pal Luke Egan.

At the same time Banksy painted the famous Mild Mild West sign, which shows a stuffed bear with a Molotov cocktail.

It appeared on a wall opposite Subway Records in Stokes Croft, Easton.

Banksy's artwork moved to London in 2000, the same year Mr Gunningham lived in a flat in Kingsland Road, Hackney.

Mr Gunningham's former housemate Egan, a fellow artist, exhibited with Banksy at Santa's Ghetto, an art store that launched Christmas 2001 in London's West End.

And Banksy held his first unofficial exhibition in a tunnel in Rivington, Shoreditch, when he spray-painted 12 pieces on to the whitewashed walls, the same year.

Egan would go on to deny Mr Gunningham was Banksy.

He said: "I lived with a guy, with Robin Gunningham. But he wasn't [Banksy] then.

"I lived with him ages ago. I don't think Banksy was around then anyway."

Yet, in a warehouse just yards from Mr Gunningham's flat, Banksy made his name.

Turf War, held in July 2003, saw live pigs and a heifer sprayed with the face of American film director Andy Warhol.

The late Queen was depicted as a chimp in the show.

Banksy would go on to arrive at the Tate dressed as a pensioner before gluing a picture to the wall. It would remain there for almost three hours.

He was suddenly notorious.


The hunt to unmask Banksy first named Mr Gunningham as the man behind the facade in 2008.

It came after a photograph was uncovered of a man wearing dark jeans and a navy shirt.

It was taken in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2004 and appeared to show Banksy smiling while hard at work on his latest design.

The man, who's believed to be Banksy, was crouched in front of a bag surrounded by stencils and a can of spray paint.

Photographer Peter Dean Rickards documented the occasion and confirmed it was of the artist.

He was said to have fallen out with the artist.

He leaked the images and told the Evening Standard: "Banksy swanned around Jamaica as if he owned the place.

"He’s too much of a p***y to protest having his picture taken once he found himself in Kingston, Jamaica—nowhere near the nice, safe media offices . . . that he’s accustomed to."

The photograph was never officially confirmed to have been of Banksy.

But one man who claimed to know Banksy did confirm the image showed Mr Gunningham, according to the Mail.


Mr Gunningham and Egan left their Bristol home when the owner wanted to sell.

Camilla Stacey, a curator at Bristol's Here Gallery, would go on to buy it in 2000.

She claimed she knew the house was Banksy's because he left pieces of artwork behind.

She threw it all away.

She said: "I bought the house that he used to live in. He had rented out a room but I think there had been problems with the tenants and the landlord had to sort of repossess it or whatever, so he was just selling it.

"When I moved in, the place had been covered in graffiti and stuff like that. I threw things in the bin."

She said the thought of throwing away the pieces kept her up at night, knowing they could now be worth millions.

Banksy's works have sold to stars including Christina Aguilera, who bought three – including a pornographic portrait of Queen Victoria for £25,000.

Angelina Jolie spent £200,000 on his art in 2006. She bought a £120,000 twist on a Manet painting where a white family lunch under an umbrella.

His works have also appeared in films including Children Of Men and Shoot 'Em Up.

He sold the artwork for Blue's Think Tank album, Space Girl & Bird, to an American bidder for £288,000.

In 2018, Banksy's Girl With Balloon self-destructed in a shredder tucked into its frame just five minutes after it was auctioned for £1million.

Far from the rebellious tearaway, what we know about Robin paints more a picture of middle class suburbia.

Robin was born in 1973 in Bristol, also known to be Banksy's long-supposed stomping ground.

He was a pupil at Bristol Cathedral School.

Robin's father, Peter Gordon Gunningham, was a retired contracts manager from the Whitehall area of Bristol.

His mother, Pamela Ann Dawkin-Jones, was a company director's secretary and grew up in the exclusive surroundings of Clifton where he also has an older sister called Sarah.

When Robin was nine, the family moved to a larger home in the same street and it is there he spent his formative years and became interested in graffiti.

It comes after Banksy was said to have bought a failing village pub in Somerset.

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