A local politician in the U.K. has resigned in an effort to quiet baseless yet persistent rumors that he is the anonymous British street artist Banksy.
Pembroke Dock town councilor William Gannon, age 58, was just elected earlier this month, but he couldn’t quell rumors about his supposed illicit artistic activities in January, which he believes may have been started by his political opponents.
“If I’m Banksy, then everybody is,” Gannon told the Telegraph. “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.”
Gannon is, however, an artist, and his work often includes public murals at sites such as children’s playgrounds and hospitals. His website described his work as “Banksy-esque, not intentionally,” and includes a photo of him spray painting a skateboard ramp back in the 1980s.
To help resolve the issue, Gannon has started an “I Am Not Banksy” campaign, and is handing out pins with the message to local residents. His hope is that the project could solve the mystery of the artist’s identity once and for all.
“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),” the project website states, “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).”
Gannon has made 300 signed and numbered buttons so far, and plans to hand out 999 in total.
“The buttons also question the nature of identity and the value of ‘authorship’ in art, which are important questions,” he told Artnet News in an email. “The buttons are individual works of art.”
Other people who have been accused of being Banksy include Gorillaz founder Jamie Hewlett and Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack.
Gannon announced his resignation on a community Facebook page. The police are reportedly investigating the social media pages where the allegations against Gannon were made, following complaints from nine other individuals who claim to have been similarly targeted.
The Banksy claims, which circulated on several social media pages, were “undermining my ability to do the work,” Gannon wrote in his resignation letter. “[People were] asking me to prove who I am not and that’s almost impossible to do.”
In resigning, Gannon has also put the kibosh on plans to erect a public sculpture in town, out of concern that people would vandalize it due to the Banksy rumors.
“That project is dead,” he told the Sun. (In happier news, Gannon has two life-sized figurative sculptures at a show at Volcano Art Gallery in Swansea, Wales, opening June 8.)
Gannon was one of 10 councilors in Pembroke Dock, which has a population of around 9,000. He was concerned that the Banksy controversy could damage the council’s reputation, especially after he was wrongfully blamed for a local graffiti incident.
The suggestion that the small town politician in Wales is in fact the world’s most famous street artist is particularly absurd given that Banksy has never done an artwork in Pembroke Dock—the closest he’s come is Port Talbot, about 70 miles away. (That piece, a mural titled Season’s Greetings, was removed in January by art dealer John Brandler after plans for a street art museum in town stalled.)
While details of Banksy’s biography remain something of a mystery—the most persistent rumor is that his real name is Robin Gunningham—the one agreed-upon fact is that he comes from Bristol, not a small town in Southwest Wales 136 miles away.
Nevertheless, it became clear that a growing contingent of people believed the rumor.
“Every time I say to somebody ‘I’m not Bansky’, they say ‘Ah, well that is exactly what Bansky would say,’” Gannon told ITV. “The more I deny it, the more people believe it.”
And Gannon’s resignation has only fueled the fire, triggering a deluge of Facebook messages demanding to know who he really is.
“I don’t know if I’m in some mad, fantastic kind of delusion or some dreadful nightmare,” Gannon told Insider. He admits that as a U.K. street artist, he was “running around at the same time as Banksy, doing the same things as they were doing, in the same places.”
If Banksy did ever decide to visit Pembroke Dock, Gannon would welcome a work by the artist.
“Banksy is a very responsible artist and it would do a lot good,” he told the BBC. “Imagine what it would do to our tourism.”
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