For over 30 years, the street artist, activist, and filmmaker known as Banksy has done the unthinkable: They’ve managed to remain anonymous. That hasn’t been easy. Banksy is famous — famous enough that their work has been destroyed by famous celebrities, other artists, and even themself. People have been trying to suss out their identity by hook or by crook. Some even claimed famous people, including members of Gorillaz and Massive Attack, of secretly being Banksy. To that list add a Welsh politician who’s so frustrated at the accusation that he quit in a huff.
The Telegraph spoke with William Gannon, a late-50s man from South Wales recently elected to town council. He’s also spent the last four decades as a community artist, making sculptures as well as graffiti in the town of Pembroke Dock. As such, he’s been accused of being Banksy himself, and the rumor has so upended his life that resigned from his newly elected position, calling it “untenable.” He claims that the claim was spread by a rival for the position he won and then left.
“There’s no truth in it whatsoever, I am not Banksy,” Gannon told The Telegraph. He admitted he’s been in “the same places as Banksy at much the same times doing much the same stuff as a community artist.” (Though a Banksy piece has never cropped up in Pembroke Dock. But Gannon claims it’s just a coincidence and Banksy is not some guy elected to a council position in a small town. “It’s so ridiculous that it’s laugh-out-loud funny, but there’s also a sinister element to it. The joke is on me.”
In his resignation latter, Gannon said he resigned “to protect the reputation of the town, Pembroke Dock did not need another controversial councillor dragging the reputation of the town through the mud.”
But Gannon’s resignation isn’t his final word on the subject. As Artnet points out, he’s started a campaign, in which people who aren’t arguably the world’s most famous street artist can order a pin from Gannon’s website that states, simply, “I am not Banksy.”
“If everyone who is NOT Banksy wears an I Am NOT Banksy badge and Banksy is the only person who is NOT wearing I Am NOT Banksy badge (because they ARE Banksy),” Gannon’s site reads, “then everyone will know that Banksy IS Banksy (because they are NOT wearing an I Am NOT Banksy badge) and, most importantly, Banksy will finally have found out who they are for him/her/them self(ves).”
Alas, Gannon is only handing out 999 of the pins total, which makes it easier for Banksy to hold onto his anonymity. But the campaign is itself more of an artistic expression, he says, meant to question the idea that an artist can claim ownership of something they’ve created. “If I’m Banksy,” he told The Telegraph, “then everybody is.”