Paper says may have "unmasked" artist Banksy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If graffiti artist Banksy’s success depends on his anonymity, he may well be a worried man.

An art aficionado takes a closer look at the creation "Napalm" by the artist Banksy at a gallery in New York December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Next to nothing is known about the cult artist, whose works are often subversive and political, fetch astronomic sums at auction and are collected by some of the world’s most famous celebrities.

Now a British newspaper says it has “compelling evidence” suggesting that Banksy is Robin Gunningham, a 34-year-old man who was privately educated at an expensive school.

The firmest clue to Banksy’s identity appears to be a photograph taken in Jamaica four years ago of a man with a bag of spray cans by his feet.

The Mail on Sunday took the photograph to Bristol in southwest England, where Banksy is from, and a former neighbor of Gunningham identified him as the man in the picture.

A spokeswoman for Banksy has declined to confirm or deny the report.

The newspaper said the idea of Banksy being educated at an expensive cathedral school in Bristol would shock fans “fond of their hero’s ‘anti-establishment’ stance.”

Banksy’s appeal has been underlined by recent auctions of his work.

Earlier this year a painting attributed to Banksy on a wall on the Portobello Road in West London fetched 208,100 pounds ($414,000) in an online auction.

Banksy is renowned for artistic stunts like leaving a replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at the Disneyland theme park in the United States.

(Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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