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Still from Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Have we finally found the real Banksy?

A group of scientists claim to have identified the elusive graffiti artist – by tracking him as if he were a serial killer

Since Banksy achieved global fame as the most well-known of all the street artists, rumours have swirled around his real identity. Various competing theories have been advanced. Is ‘he’ actually a ‘she’? Is he a collective of artists? Is he actually the Mr Brainwash depicted in 2010 documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop? Is he former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham? Such is the devotion of Banksy’s fans that they’ve even gone as far as to suggest testing a pizza box once held by the elusive artist, in the hope that it will yield traces of his DNA and so reveal his real identity. 

Now, however, scientists claim to have identified the ‘real’ Banksy – using scientific techniques more commonly used to catch serial killers. A group of researchers for the Journal of Spatial Science employed geographic profiling to “analyse the spatial patterns of Banksy artworks in Bristol and London”. Using mathematical modelling that is generally used in criminology (the authors of the report suggest that the same technique could be utilised to find terrorist bases), the report mapped the location of 140 of Banksy’s works in England. 

As Fusion reports, the authors of the report did include a cheat – they cross-referenced the locations against the known addresses of Robin Gunningham, long-considered to be the most likely candidate for the real Banksy. Essentially, they wanted to know if Banksy’s artworks clustered around Gunningham’s former addresses. And – spoiler alert – they did. According to their analysis, Gunningham really is the most likely candidate for Banksy's true identity. 

So, what do we know about Gunningham? Well, according to this Daily Mail profile, Gunningham was born in Bristol in 1973 and grew up in the city. After graffitiing the streets of his home town, Gunningham moved to a flat in Hackney around the year 2000 – about the same time that Banksy had his first unofficial exhibition, in a tunnel in Shoreditch. Little is known about Gunningham, although the owner of a house that he used to rent says she “threw out a bunch of graffiti work”, before going on to add that it gave her “sleepless nights” sometimes, wondering if she’d thrown away work that might now be worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

According to the BBC, Banksy’s lawyers delayed the publication of the report after they found out about its existence – which, although interesting, is by no means an admission that the authors are correct. While it does appear that all the evidence at the moment points towards Gunningham, you have to ask yourself why it even matters that we know who the ‘real’ Banksy is. What’s life without a few mysteries, after all?