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This article was published on March 4, 2016


Mapping data might have just revealed who the real Banksy is

Mapping data might have just revealed who the real Banksy is
Amanda Connolly
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Amanda Connolly

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Amanda Connolly is a reporter for The Next Web, currently based in London. Originally from Ireland, Amanda previously worked in press and ed Amanda Connolly is a reporter for The Next Web, currently based in London. Originally from Ireland, Amanda previously worked in press and editorial at the Web Summit. She’s interested in all things tech, with a particular fondness for lifestyle and creative tech and the spaces where these intersect. Twitter

Trying to figure out the identity of graffiti artist Banksy is the art world equivalent of discovering who Satoshi Nakamoto really is.

It was first thought that Banksy was a street artist named Robert Banks and then was later said to be Robin Gunningham after an in-depth investigation by a UK newspaper.

Gunningham is a man in his thirties who comes from a well-off family, which is why some Banksy fans may find it hard to believe that this is their man. The artist is known for producing pieces that exhibit ‘anti-establishment’ sentiments.

Well now a study by the Queen Mary University of London has ‘confirmed’ that Robin Gunningham is the mysterious artist after all.

Using statistical mapping, a method usually used by the authorities to monitor criminals, the research group says it’s narrowed down the possibilities of Banksy being anyone other than Gunningham.

Banksy – Street Art Exhibition, Musèe de la Poste, Paris #banksy #streetart #paris

A photo posted by Amanda Ann Connolly (@amandamakespictures) on

The geographical profile built up by the university’s researchers shows a pattern between the location of Banksy’s work and its close proximity to Gunningham and his known hangouts. There was no illegal tracking of him involved, the university was able to build the profile using entirely public data, which makes it all the more creepy.

The area analyzed by the group included 140 pieces of art that are known or suspected to be by Banksy, which covered both London and Bristol. They then narrowed these locations down into ‘hotspots’ and with further investigation were able to pull out six key locations.

These are a pub, a residence in Bristol, three residences in London and a playing field. What’s the common link? They are all residences owned or lived in by Gunningham and areas he is known to frequent.

Piece by Banksy in Bristol, UK.
Credit: MartineDF / Shutterstock.com
Piece by Banksy in Bristol, UK.

Obviously, Banksy’s legal team wouldn’t clarify whether the research was correct or not but it did manage to delay the publishing of the report by a week after expressing concerns about its title – ‘Tagging Banksy.’

The lawyers contacted the university team and managed to get a press release that was scheduled to be sent out withdrawn, according to the BBC.

This could indicate that the study has hit the nail on the head but it’s unlikely this will be confirmed so the mystery continues. Although that’s part of the fun of the world’s most famous unknown graffiti artist.

Tagging Banksy: using geographic profiling to investigate a modern art mystery [School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London]