Banksy Unmasked?Banksy: millionaire street artist, fierce cultural critic, celebrity darling of the art world. The man's prestige has been immeasurably enhanced by his anonymity. He insists on it, and it gives him an air of mystery that only increases his allure to the media, fans, and collectors alike. An alleged photo of him was widely circulated last year, but it certainly didn't result in his real name being printed in his omnipresent media coverage. Those in his inner circle insist on strict concealment of his identity. Theories, of course, abound. But today, Bucky Turco at Animal NY believes he's stumbled upon Banksy's true identity. Combined with some corroborating evidence we got ourselves, the case is plausible—though far from proven. Now this would be big news:

This morning, we got a tip about a sighting of Banksy painting on the side of Thunder Jacksons in NYC. Bucky Turco went and took pictures of the work. Shortly afterwards, Gothamist and others proclaimed that the piece was in fact by Nick Walker(pictured)—another well known stencil artist from Bristol, England.

Well.

The piece at Thunder Jacksons is by Nick Walker. You can see the theme in his own photos on Flickr. Our own original tipster wrote in to say, "I stand corrected. It wasn't Banksy - it was Nick Walker...the pics of the artwork show a signature that happens to be Nick Walker's. Youtube has some videos of Nick Walker working and he is the guy who was at TJ's last night."

But, asked for more information, the same tipster added this: "While he was outside doing his stencil sombody asked if he was banksy and he said he was."

Nick Walker said he was Banksy. [This is also corroborated by Gawker commenter chickenjungle, a.k.a. Abbe Diaz, here. She says she was at Thunder Jacksons last night and heard Walker say the same thing]. With that in mind, allow us to quote liberally from Bucky Turco's just-posted item at Animal NY:

According to a waitress at the newly stenciled Thunder Jackson restaurant, who witnessed Banksy painting the wall last night, "the whole thing took him about 15 minutes." When asked if she was positive it was Banksy, she emphatically stated "yes," and then awkwardly added, "Banksy is Nick Walker, they are the same person. Oops, I don't think I was supposed to say that." When pressed on why Banksy would use different names, she spilled, "He uses that identity because of visa and passport issues." The waitress added that Banksy is going to make a big announcement about his identity but not while he's in town, "He has a whole master PR plan, but he's waiting till he leaves the country."

Wow. If true.

Walker is often described as a predecessor, friend, and/ or rival of Banksy, and has certainly benefited from Banksy's publicity himself. He told Bloomberg last month:

Walker said that he had got know Banksy in Bristol, western England, in the late 1990s when he was invited to be part of the ``Walls on Fire'' group of graffiti artists.

``We don't talk too much now,'' he said.

Now let's run through the case against this theory. It started with an unsolicited tip. It has only a handful of sources. Theoretically, any of them could be lying, exaggerating, or misinformed. But it's worth noting that none of them have any readily apparent reason for making any of this up. We'd be happy to hear some art experts weigh in on Nick Walker vs. Banksy from a technical angle; but the similarities in their styles are obvious and unmistakable.

So, smart people: is Nick Walker Banksy?