Banksy Unmasked?

Is British Street Artist Banksy Really Four People?

The Daily Beast can reveal the real name of one of the street artists suspected of working under the alias ‘Banksy.’

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty

They seek him here, they seek him there.

And despite the fact that he sometimes seems to be everywhere, no-one has ever been able to figure out, definitively, the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel of the British street art scene, Banksy.

Now there are new claims in the longest running mystery in street art that Banksy is actually four people - and the Daily Beast can reveal the true name of one of the 'Banksys' as James Hallewell, a British born street artist believed to have earned his chops in the northern town of Sheffield in the late 1990s.

While there is plenty of doubt that Hallewell is the 'original' Banksy, it is very likely that he is one of Banksy's key assistants and collaborators.

Artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol to Damien Hirst have relied on the services of an army of paid and unpaid assistants, and there is no reason to think Banksy would shy away from such an industrial model.

The "multiple Banksys" idea - provided by a British writer turned Banksy-detective - provides a simple explanation for how a graffiti artist who has daubed tens of thousands of images on walls around the world and even built mock theme parks has managed to avoid identification by mainstream media and hipster blogs.

William Kasper, from London, who is reportedly writing a book entitled, The Unusual Suspects about the elusive street artist, famed for his satirical, politically charged street art, says Banksy is actually four people.

In support of his claim, Kasper has come forward with a nine-year-old picture showing an artist he identifies as James Ame staging a prank at an Israeli checkpoint, laying down a doormat with the word ‘Welcome’ emblazoned on it.

He produced the picture after recognizing Ame from a recent video, taken by a woman who claimed it showed Banksy at work in Israel.

In fact, as Ame makes clear on his website, ‘Ame’ is a pseudonym.

“Ame72 (pronounced Aim) is his 'street' name, the 3 middle letters of his first name followed by the year he was born,” the website says, “It's an old skool graffiti thing.”

Ame’s real name is James Hallewell, the Daily Beast can reveal. There are few records available of Hallewell aside from a photograph taken in the British town of Sheffield in 1999.

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The Israel sighting of ‘Banksy’ has credibility as a show entitled “The Art of Banksy” is due to open soon in an Israeli mall.

The mall was apparently closed when the woman entered the grounds, and she was asked to sign in. She says she saw a British name above the line she was asked to sign. On asking who this man was, the security guard replied that he was an artist from England, and she began recording footage of him on her phone.

The video shows a man wearing a hat and camouflage pants walking around a closed-off art studio carrying a stencil. When the man realizes he's being videotaped, he puts up a hand to cover his face.

Kasper told the Daily Mail the man “is one of the Banksy members and hides behind the artist name James Ame or Ame72.”

“Ame fits the profile perfectly - a long term graffiti artist from the 80s turned gallery and street artist.”

Ame, who lives in Tel Aviv, describes his work on his website as “a creative mix of Urban, Contemporary and Pop Art.”

Ame is known for his prolific use of a mini Lego figure in his street stencil works, and is known in consequence as ‘The Lego Guy’.

Kasper told the Mail: “I never believed Banksy was one person.

“The body of work over the last 10 years is too large for one person to accomplish.

“This proves the group use different artist names as a cover and all collective members are hiding in plain view.

“Whoever came up with that idea is a genius.”

In 2008, Banksy was 'unmasked' by the Mail on Sunday as Robin Gunningham, a former public schoolboy from Bristol with a passion for art.

In 2015, it was speculated that a man snapped outside his Dismaland ‘bemusement park’ in Weston-Super-Mare was the elusive artist.

Banksy's fans were left disappointed, however, when the man was revealed to be a car parking attendant working for the local council.