He is perhaps the most famous, or infamous, artist alive. To some a genius, to others a vandal. Always controversial, he inspires admiration and provokes outrage in equal measure.
Since Banksy made his name with his trademark stencil-style ‘guerrilla’ art in public spaces – on walls in London, Brighton, Bristol and even on the West Bank barrier separating Israelis and Palestinians – his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He has dozens of celebrity collectors including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera.
He is also known for his headline-making stunts, such as leaving an inflatable doll dressed as a Guantanamo prisoner in Disneyland, California, and hanging a version of the Mona Lisa – but with a smiley face – in the Louvre, Paris.
But perhaps his most provocative statement, and the one that generates the most publicity, is the fact that Banksy’s true identity has always been a jealously guarded secret, known to only a handful of trusted friends.
A network of myths has grown up around him. That his real name is Robin Banks. That he used to be a butcher. That his parents don’t know what he does, believing him to be an unusually successful painter and decorator.
Then there’s the suggestion that Banksy is actually a collective of artists and doesn’t exist at all.
Such is the curiosity about Banksy that when the great man threw a pizza box into a bin in Los Angeles, the box resurfaced on auction site eBay, with the seller suggesting that the few anchovies left inside might yield traces of his DNA.
He is the Scarlet Pimpernel of modern art, so adept at leaving false trails that even his own agent has claimed that he is not certain of his identity.
Indeed, trying to establish just who the elusive Banksy is has proved as difficult as predicting the location of his next work.
But now, after an exhaustive year-long investigation in which we have spoken to dozens of friends, former colleagues, enemies, flatmates and members of Banksy’s close family, The Mail on Sunday has come as close as anyone possibly can to revealing his identity.
Read more here.