A woman believed to be married to the elusive street artist known as Banksy is herself a former Labor lobbyist in Parliament.
Joy Millward is the wife of Robin Gunningham, 50, who was named as the first defendant in a High Court trial against ‘The Artist Known as Banksy’.
Ms Millward is originally from the West Midlands and worked as a researcher for Labor MP Austin Mitchell. She later set up Principe Affairs, a lobby group for charities, and is believed to have met Gunningham around 2003.
They got married in Las Vegas in 2006 but are supposed to keep to themselves, even among neighbors. A source said: “Even those they speak to occasionally have no idea who they really are.
“The only people who know his true identity are those in the inner circle, who have been verified. Some of Joy’s family members don’t know who her husband is or what he does.
Robin Gunningham’s wife, Joy Millward, is from the West Midlands and worked as a researcher for Labor MP Austin Mitchell. She is believed to have met Gunningham around 2003.
Stenciled graffiti on an east London office building, believed to be Banksy’s, showing an image similar to the photograph of Robin Gunningham, believed to be his real identity, in the Mail on Sunday
Caught happily filming the artwork being shredded, the man on the left bears a striking resemblance to Robin Gunningham.
The Mail on Sunday exclusive in 2008, which linked Banksy to a photo of a graffiti artist in Jamaica in 2004. Banksy and Robin Gunningham each denied being the man in the photo.
Robin Gunningham (centre) pictured as a 15-year-old Bristol Cathedral School pupil in the summer of 1989
For years, Banksy’s true identity has remained a mystery celebrated by the press and the public.
The guerrilla painter’s works – often adorning the facades of seemingly randomly chosen houses – can see buildings rise in value, leaving their owners dumbfounded.
But this week the anonymous artist could be forced to reveal his true identity after being named in a High Court case.
Rave pioneer and graffiti influencer Andrew Gallagher is suing “the artist known as Banksy” for defamation, while Pest Control Ltd – which sells Banksy’s works – is listed as a co-defendant.
Gallagher’s lawyers have refused to release details of the case, citing confidentiality, but the court hearing could force Banksy’s identity into the open.
For 30 years, a list of flamboyant public figures have been associated with the artist’s identity, including Massive Attack singer Robert Del Naja, Gorillaz frontman Jamie Hewlett and even Art Attack host Neil Buchanan , The Sun reports.
But one name stands out from the others: that of the ephemeral artist Robin Gunningham, 50, who has largely kept his profile under the radar.
Above all, he is named as the first defendant in Gallagher’s lawsuit against Banksy.
Hailing from Banksy’s hometown of Bristol, newspapers have in the past attempted, unsuccessfully, to conclusively identify Gunningham as the guerrilla artist.
Scientists from Queen Mary University attempted to link Gunningham to graffiti that appeared in Jamaica in 2004.
Researchers focused on a photograph showing a man dressed in loose clothing, armed with stencils, a sketchbook and spray cans.
But the ID was far from watertight, as Banksy insisted the man in the photo was not him, as were Gunningham’s parents.
Despite this, observers noted a similarity between the man in the photo and a 1989 school photo of pupils at Bristol Cathedral School, which is believed to include Gunningham.
Gunningham himself has observed a strict code of silence since he was first associated with Banksy, as has his wife Joy Millward.
Robin Gunningham’s childhood home in Bristol, where he lived from 1982 to 1989
This half-shredded Banksy work sold for £18.6 million ($25.4 million), four times its estimate.
A work by Banksy in Lowestoft, Suffolk, depicted a spray-painted seagull entering a dumpster filled with polystyrene shavings.
Will Gallagher now make a monkey of Banksy in the High Court (pictured) – including by forcing him to show his face in public?
The son of contract manager Peter Gunningham and secretary Pamela Dawkin-Jones, Gunningham grew up in the affluent Clifton area of Bristol and is said to have aspired to become an artist from a young age.
Scott Nurse, a former classmate, described Gunningham as one of three people in his class who were “extremely talented in art,” adding that he did many illustrations.
Anthony Hallett, who lived near the family, remembered it fondly.
He said: “The family have always been very kind. I’m not sure but I think Robin worked as a graffiti artist. He worked for others and disappeared for months. He was rather nomadic.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it went off the rails, but there was kind of a division in the family, probably because it didn’t turn out the way they hoped. He just disappeared afterward. having left the house.
In 1985, Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery hosted an exhibition called Graffiti Art In Britain, in which artists sprayed paint directly onto the gallery walls and hip hop group The Wild Bunch, later Massive Attack, played.
In a 2006 interview with pop culture magazine Swindle, Banksy said: “I come from a relatively small town in the south of England. When I was about ten years old, a kid named 3D was painting the streets hard. I think he had gone to New York and was the first to bring spray painting back to Bristol. I grew up seeing spray paint on the streets long before I saw it in a magazine or on a computer.
‘3D stopped painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been a good thing for him but was a great loss for the city. Graffiti was what we all loved at school. We did it on the bus on the way home from school. Everyone was doing it.
Banksy’s first exhibition was in Shoreditch in 2001, but he didn’t achieve mainstream success until his Turf War exhibition a few years later.
He then created renowned pieces including The Girl with the Balloon, which, in a bizarre stunt, was shredded at a Sotheby’s auction in London before selling for £18.6 million ($25.4 million).
His documentary film Exit Through The Gift Shop was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.
And in 2015 he introduced the subversive ‘Dismaland’ theme park in Weston-Super-Mare, filled with incongruous artwork and billed as “the unhappiest place on earth”.