Photo: (left) Robin Gunningham 1989, UK (right) Banksy 2004, Jamaica
The UK’s Daily Mail has uncovered the most compelling proof to date that street stenciler Banksy’s real identity is Robin Gunningham, but first some quick background. Last year, while writing for Complex.com, I noted how the British (and world) media had all but ignored the Banksy photo that was first published by the Evening Standard on Friday July 30th, 2004. It was part of a series of images taken at Dancehall superstar Buju Banton’s studio in Jamaica by professional button pusher Peter Dean Rickards. Evidently he had a falling out with the art pranksterâ€”it had something to do with Banksy being an egotistical prick or somethingâ€”and sold one of the photos to the news outlet that ran it with the headline: “Unmasked at last.” Despite republishing some of these photos and even receiving a cease and desist on behalf of MeenaKhera PRâ€”who claimed the rights to the images and threatened legal actionâ€”many still doubted it was him (we later learned the PR hacks paid 10,000 British pounds for those rights).
And now, the ‘Mail’ took that same photo of Banksy from JA to help trace his identity, leading to a witness from Bristol not only verifying it was him, but also offering up the “art terrorist’s” government name as Robin Gunningham. After some public record searches, that led them to his supposed fancy prep school, uncovering the above younger, Harry Potter-looking image of him as a student at Bristol Cathedral School from 1989. There’s also some other interesting items from a slew of sources, but the best was this odd exchange with his alleged, Robin Gunningham-denying parents:
His mother Pamela lives in a neat modern bungalow in a village outside Bristol. After identifying ourselves, we asked her if she had a son called Robin.
Her reaction was very odd. We showed her the Jamaica photograph and she was visibly startled, but said she didn’t recognise the man in the photograph, to whom she bears more than a passing resemblance. We asked if she could put us in touch with him.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know how to get in contact with him,’ she said.
So she did have a son called Robin? ‘No, I don’t. I don’t have a son at all.’
We asked her if she had any other children. ‘Yes, a daughter.’
But no son and certainly not a son who went to Bristol Cathedral School?
‘No,’ she said, and went on to deny she was Pamela Gunningham, insisting that the electoral roll must be incorrect.
Our conversation with Peter Gunningham, who now lives in a gated development in the suburb of Kingsdown, was equally baffling.
Again, we presented the photograph of Banksy/Robin Gunningham. Mr Gunningham said he didn’t recognise the person in the picture. We told him that we believed his son to be Banksy. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I can’t help you, really.’
Mr Gunningham politely continued to deny that his son was Banksy but his manner was almost playful. He refused to give us any information about Robin. It was all very strange.
Had the couple never heard of Banksy or Robin Gunningham, one might have expected a reaction of complete bewilderment. This did not seem to be the case.