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Who is Geco and how did he get caught?
Instagram – @gecostickerlx

Who is the Italian Banksy and how did he get caught?

After an 18-month search, the artist known as ‘Geco’ has finally been unmasked

Police in Rome have managed to identify one of the city’s most elusive street artists, according to a post on the mayor of Rome’s Facebook page.

Mayor Virginia Raggi, boasted that authorities had managed to identify the tagger, who had been “reported for defacing several buildings in our city” after a year of “coordinated investigations”.

Geco’s work has lined Roman subway stations and bridges, schools and derelict buildings, as well as parks and galleries for many years. Despite the ubiquity of his tag – ‘Geco’ written in blocked caps – his identity has remained a mystery, not unlike his English counterpart, Banksy. But after his unmasking at the hands of the authorities, the graffiti artist now has hundreds of thousands of euros in damages hanging over his head.

So who is Geco and how did he get caught? Let’s take a look.

WHO IS HE?

Geco is an Italian street artist based in Rome who rose to local fame for his prolific tagging over many years. Due to his secrecy he was considered “uncatchable”, until very recently, and now faces up to two years in prison and heavy fines. Although authorities have not officially released his name, he is thought to be in his late twenties and a native of the city.

WHAT IS HIS ART LIKE?

The Geco tag is in block-caps and usually in black with a white trim, or white with a black trim. It appears in perilously high places, like enormous bridges, water towers, and the sides of tall apartment blocks. It also pops up regularly on street signs, bins, garage doors – essentially anything that will take paint. The tag is also littered across the city in the form of small stickers. The below Instagram account documents as much of his work as possible.

HOW DID HE GET CAUGHT?

Authorities had been investigating the identity of the artist for many years, putting some serious man-power into the search. However, the downfall of Geco was ultimately due to the fact that he accidentally tagged a secret-service hide-out thinking it was an abandoned building.

Raggi was happy to claim victory in a post on her Facebook page. “Hundreds of spray cans, thousands of stickers, ropes, fire extinguishers, cords, locks, six mobile phones, computers, brushes, rollers, and buckets of paint. This is the material that the Environment and Decoro Nucleus of our local police seized from the Roman writer known as ‘Geco’.”

According to the New York Times, Geco's lawyer, Domenico Melillo, said that his client has not yet been officially charged and has not been arrested at this time.

HOW HAS THE PUBLIC REACTED?

Geco is a divisive figure among residents of Rome and news of his unmasking has prompted a mixed response on social media. Some think he deserves statues erected in his name, others sarcastically refer to his status as an “artist”, while one user revealed that Geco’s ethereal presence has “haunted” him for years, and says he is relieved at him being caught. 

“Banksy goes to auction, but Geco must be denounced and treated as a criminal because he prevented Rome from shining with its own rubbish and holes,“ protested one resident. “In Geco I see a childish urgency, that of writing one’s name to appear,” Italian art critic Achille Bonito Oliva recently told Le Republica, “but I don’t see an artist.”

Just last month, Geco tested the patience of Romans when it was revealed his latest piece used a section of ancient Roman wall, built between 271 AD and 275 AD. Geco “tarnished the Aurelian Walls with his silly tag”, English language magazine Wanted in Rome wrote on Twitter. Maybe the city is glad to see him go.