Banksy uncovered: Why are we so keen to 'unmask' artist?

Nola (Rain Again) by Banksy

Banksy's identity 'revealed' by NYC photo. But Loch Ness monster proves mysteries are more fun

LAST UPDATED AT 13:16 ON Wed 9 Oct 2013

BANKSY and the Loch Ness monster have a lot in common. They're both famous, both elusive and the only evidence they exist is a series of grainy, out-of-focus photographs.

The latest picture claiming to unmask the reclusive millionaire street artist was taken in New York on Saturday night. It shows a gaunt-looking man wearing a flat cap and "paint-spattered overalls".

The snap, taken by one of the stencil artist's fans, was captured as a delivery truck being used to display one of his art works was parked on a Manhattan street. When a battery failed and the lights illuminating the picture of a lush garden went off, the man in the cap "sprang into action".

There were several men at the scene, but the one in the hat "stood out from the group", the Daily Mirror says.

Not exactly conclusive is it? As a result, the quest to unmask the dauber-to-the-stars continues. Here's a list of some of the key Banksy 'sightings':

Banksy meets The Guardian, 2003: One of the only journalists to have met Banksy is The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone. He described the artist as "white, 28, scruffy casual – jeans, T-shirt, a silver tooth, silver chain and silver earring. He [Banksy] looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets."

Banksy in Bethnal Green, 2007: A passer-by "familiar with Banksy's work" snapped the artist and an assistant painting a mural in Bethnal Green, east London. The picture "could show the reclusive artist at work," said The BBC.

Banksy is "nice middle-class boy", 2008: The Mail on Sunday broke the mould by running a sharp picture of a smiling, curly-haired man it insisted was Banksy. His real name is Robin Gunningham, said the paper, which also claimed he was a public schoolboy educated at the £9,240-a-year Bristol Cathedral School. Fans of the artist's "anti-establishment stance" would doubtless be "shocked" to learn of his true identity, the Mail added.

Banksy self-portrait confirms his identity, 2009: When a Banksy "self-portrait" appeared on the side of an office block in east London, the Mail on Sunday felt vindicated. "The image is almost identical to the Mail on Sunday's picture [of Gunningham]," it said. "It is possible the graffiti art was created by someone else," the paper admitted. "But evidence compiled in a Mail on Sunday investigation suggests that Banksy is indeed Robin Gunningham – and that in his latest graffiti he has coyly acknowledged his unmasking." 

Mrs Banksy unmasked, 2011: The woman sitting in front of a laptop looks like "just another unremarkable young professional", said the Daily Mail. In fact, she is Joy Millward, the "very secretive wife of the world's most secretive artist, Banksy". Millward, a parliamentary lobbyist who is married to Robin Gunningham, declined to comment.

Banksy goes to the Playboy Club, 2011: Was that Banksy wearing a vicar's outfit and a skull mask to a celebrity bash at the Playboy Club in Mayfair, London? Members of the paparazzi insisted it was, Digital Spy wasn't so sure.

Banksy unmasked in Santa Monica, 2011: Another grainy, out-of-focus picture, this one taken in Los Angeles. It shows a man wearing a green baseball cap who the Daily Mail says has just painted the words 'This Looks a bit like an Elephant' on a container near a busy motorway.

Should the quest to unmask Banksy continue? Salon thinks not. "It's inevitably much more fun to think of some masked Warhol biting his thumb at the mainstream art world and taking the mystique of an anonymous graffiti tag to its inevitable conclusion," it says. "Banksy is everywhere and nowhere at the same time." · 

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