It has been called Britain’s “most unlikely national treasure”. But now it seems graffiti artist Banksy, whose works, which often feature rats and monkeys, sell for millions of pounds, is about to be described in slightly less flattering terms – ahead the High Court.
I can reveal that Banksy – the pseudonym of Bristol-born, state school educated Robin Gunningham, 53 – is named as the first defendant in a legal action accusing him of defamation.
His co-defendant is the company created by Banksy – and playfully named Pest Control Ltd. Contrary to its title, the company sells its art, which is invariably produced, overnight and invisibly, using a stencil, and which now adorns the sides. of ruined houses and walls, not only in Bristol and London, but everywhere from the West Bank to Detroit.
The initiator of the action is Andrew Gallagher, 56, an iconoclastic entrepreneur who started in the music industry by organizing raves in the 1990s, before exploiting the commercial potential of graffiti.
Richard Eden can reveal that Banksy – the pseudonym of Bristol-born, state school educated Robin Gunningham, 53 – is named as the first defendant in a legal action accusing him of defamation. In 2007, the Mail on Sunday published an investigation suggesting that Banksy was Robin Gunningham, believed to be the man pictured above.
Pictured: An artist believed to be Banksy exhibits his latest creation at Tate Britain in 2003.
The initiator of the action is Andrew Gallagher, 56, an iconoclastic entrepreneur who started in the music industry by organizing raves in the 1990s, before exploiting the commercial potential of graffiti. Pictured: Banksy’s Sweep It Under the Carpet mural
This half-shredded Banksy work sold for £18.6 million, four times its estimate.
Will Gallagher now make a monkey of Banksy in the High Court (pictured) – including by forcing him to show his face in public?
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of the photos I took were of a new kid on the block called Banksy,” he explained in an interview last year, adding that the cards and other merchandise it sells are “affordable products for fans – and there are millions of fans.”
Banksy career timeline
- Early 1990s: his work begins to appear in Bristol
- Late 1990s: he moves to London and gains public recognition
- 2000s: Banksy becomes the UK’s most famous graffiti artist and begins holding exhibitions across the country and abroad.
- 2003: He disguises himself as a pensioner and installs one of his own works in a vacant space at the Tate Britain in London.
- 2004: He sneaks into the Louvre in Paris and hangs his own version of the Mona Lisa
- 2010: He directs Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film, moves to New York and is today the most famous graffiti artist in the world
He refuses to discuss the looming showdown at the High Court, while his lawyer, Aaron Wood of Brandsmiths, tells me the details are currently “confidential and will remain so until Banksy or Pest Control lodge their acknowledgement.” . For this reason, adds Wood, I am not at liberty to say more about this assertion.
Banksy and Pest Control remain silent. After successfully applying for a European trademark in 2014, they saw that decision overturned when Gallagher appealed in 2021.
The judges noted that Banksy, who said “copyright is for losers,” had long expressed disdain for intellectual property rights, and added that it was difficult for him to insist on the right author while remaining anonymous.
Last year, however, Banksy won a separate suit that upheld his right to trademark his series of images showing chimpanzees with sandwich boards around their necks.
But will Gallagher now make a monkey out of him in the High Court – including by forcing him to appear in public?
Banksy’s true identity has never been fully confirmed – and speculation continues to surround the mysterious artist.
However, in 2008 the Mail On Sunday came as close as possible to suggesting his identity – using a photograph taken in Jamaica showing a man dressed in a blue shirt and jeans.
Mail reporters traveled to Bristol, believed to be Banksy’s hometown, where a man claimed the identity of the man in the photo was Robin Gunningham.
Banksy denied the photo was of him.