If you are given a stencil by a man claiming to be “Robin Banks” don’t book that expensive holiday just yet as this Banksy is a fake.
A man who appears to be cashing in on the anonymity of the most successful street artist in the world has been doing the rounds near Penrith, Cumbria of late, giving a print to a schoolboy on a train and popping into a local restaurant to describe the décor as “funky”.
Two murals in the style of Banksy have also appeared at local beauty spot Lacy Caves, north of Little Salkeld, near Penrith (see photos, below).
He’s fooled several national newspapers as well as more than a handful of individuals. Trouble is, “Robin Banks” is so keen to introduce himself as the famous street artist (not to mention to give work away) that locals are smelling a rat rather like the ones Banksy stencils.
The above print is the latest Banksy forgery to come to light. It was given to local artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth who got chatting to the man calling himself “Robin Banks” (a name known to be used by Banksy) when he claimed to be opening a gallery in Penrith.
“Banks” told Ms Jakob-Whitworth that he was keen to exhibit her artwork in his new gallery and gave her the stencil on a piece of old cardboard after she showed him some of her own work.
But, having watched him sign the work “very slowly” Ms Jakob-Whitworth realised something wasn’t quite right. “He was very friendly and told us stories about the injuries he’d had while making his work. How he had a metal plate in his head and bolts in his leg,” Ms Jakob-Whitworth said speaking exclusively to The Independent.
“We were very excited and went home and talked about it with our neighbour who is also an artist. But the more we talked about it the more we couldn’t understand why he’d introduced himself. And we began to look more closely at the stencil as the quality of the work didn’t seem quite right.”
Ms Jakob-Whitworth said the man’s profile didn’t quite fit what we understand to be Banksy’s (late 40s, tall, glasses, well-spoken, from Bristol). “He seemed too young. In his 30s, and he’s quite little, very short. He looked really rough.”
“He told me he lived in Kirkby Thore, which is a nearby village to Penrith,” she added, remarking at her surprise that he should be so free with that information considering his profile.
The imposter arranged to meet Ms Jakob-Whitworth at a shop at 3 Middlegate, Penrith, Cumbria which has since closed but which now has a sign on its door saying “Art Gallery Opening Soon”.
Ms Jakob-Whitworth subsequently mentioned the meeting – which took place in October 2014 – to acquaintances from within the art community and found there were several others with similar experiences.
“I got chatting to some other artists at an art open day and they said ‘Oh yes, I’ve met Banksy too.’ Another lovely lady I know says he comes into the post office to cash his benefits every week. Well, he did say he gives all his money to charity,” she said.
Earlier this week the owner of Wild Zucchinis restaurant in Cockermouth reported that a man calling himself “Robin Banks” had popped in. Manon Plouffe, 48, told The Independent: “He was looking at the décor. We have a bit of graffiti art on the walls. He said ‘that’s funky, I like it’. He said ‘I’m a graffiti artist’.
Manon, who was “trying to get rid of him” as she was closing up, said she didn’t twig that he might be Banksy until she mentioned the conversation to her colleague.
“He was half out the door and I said ‘What’s your name?’ He said ‘Robin Banks’. I asked him to come back for a coffee the next day we never saw him again.”
In the first week of January Ben Azarya, 14, was given a Banksy-style print by a stranger travelling on the Oxenholme to Penrith train who also claimed to be “Robin Banks”.
Schoolboy Azarya, who had no idea who Banksy was, said a man claiming to be Robin Banks gave him a signed copy of an iconic print, and said:“This will be worth about £20,000 - have a good life.”
He couldn't believe it when he went home and looked him up on the internet. “He was on the phone for most of the time talking to someone called AK47. “He opened his rucksack and had a gas mask and spray paints inside," Azarya told The Mirror.
Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
1/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Kissing Coppers', 2006
2/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, Kate Moss (signed version)
3/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Sunflowers from Petrol Station', 2005
4/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Morons', dated 06
5/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Pest Control - Banksus Militus Vandalus'
6/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Money Queen', 2001
7/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Kate Moss'
8/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Guantanamo Bay', 2005
9/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Burger King Kid', circa 2006
10/10 Banksy: The Unauthorised Retrospective
Banksy, 'Avon and Somerset Constabulary'
"He got out a piece of paper and had colours marked on it of what he had been trying out and he dropped his colours. I picked them up for him and after that he started signing it in weird letters and numbers. He said ‘do you know who Robin Banks is?"
Referring to both stories Banksy's publicist said: “It isn’t true. I don’t know where it has come from, it is really strange."
It isn’t the first time Banksy’s anonymity has led to his impersonation. In 2009 The Guardian ran an interview with him, only subsequently realising the man they interviewed wasn’t Banksy.
The apology ran as follows: “An interview purporting to be with Banksy in last Saturday’s Guide was, it transpires, conducted with someone impersonating the graffiti artist. We apologise to Banksy for this error and for any offence and inconvenience caused.”
Last October a false story, published on US website National Report, alleged that the identity of the British street artist had finally been revealed and that he had been arrested “without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting”.
The story claimed that Banksy’s London art studio had been raided, where “thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism” were found, along with ID thought to belong to the famed anonymous street artist, which allegedly identified him as Liverpool-born Paul Homer.
In 2008, it was claimed that Banksy was actually Robin Gunningham, a former public schoolboy from Bristol. The artist denied the claim.