Have scientists discovered street artist Banksy’s real identity?

  • AFP, London
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2016 23:16 IST
In this Monday, June 24, 2013 file photo, Bonhams employees adjust a spray paint work by urban artist Banksy at Bonhams auction house in London. (AP Photo)

After more than two decades of mystery, British academics have used geographic profiling tools to reveal the identity of enigmatic street-artist Banksy on Friday.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London said the pattern of how Banksy’s artworks were distributed suggested that he is actually British artist Robin Gunningham, in a study published in the Journal of Spatial Science.

Gunningham was first declared to be Banksy by the Daily Mail newspaper in 2008.

Banksy’s often politically-themed street art has made him a celebrity in Britain, despite his true identity never having been confirmed.

His most high-profile recent project was Dismaland, which last year mocked the conventions of amusement parks, and was located in southwest England.

Geographic profiling is a technique used in fields from criminology to studying patterns of infectious disease.

The study analysed a series of locations of Banksy’s artworks in London and Bristol and mapped them against “anchor points” such as the homes of people suspected of being Banksy to draw conclusions about the possible identity of the graffiti artist.

Workmen watch the media photograph a new artwork by British artist Banksy opposite the French Embassy, in London. (AP Photo)

“Our analysis highlights areas associated with one prominent candidate (e.g. his home), supporting his identification as Banksy,” the paper said.

“More broadly, these results support previous suggestions that analysis of minor terrorism-related acts (eg graffiti) could be used to help locate terrorist bases before more serious incidents occur, and provides a fascinating example of the application of the model to a complex, real-world problem.”

One of the research team, Steve Le Comber, told the BBC: “I’d be surprised if it’s not (Gunningham), even without our analysis, but it’s interesting that the analysis offers additional support for it.”

The BBC also reported that Banksy’s legal team had contacted staff at the university with concerns about how the research was to be promoted.

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