Banksy has hit the big screen with Exit Through the Gift Shop, but suggests the Bristol graffiti artist is just a public schoolboy cashing in on others’ talent.

Choosing to have the plagiarist Thierry Guetta as a central character in his film has raised eyebrows across the street art world. The graffiti artist sold original prints for $1,870,000 in New York and £636,500 at Sotheby’s in London at the top of the market in February 2008 with Brad Pitt and Christina Aguilera joining the crush to buy his work.

Now his former friends and associates are less than happy that his most notorious paintings – including his stencils on the Palestinian wall and vandalised masterpieces – are thinly veiled copies of their own.

Banksy first became a major celebrity when he surreptitiously hung his own versions of classic paintings in Tate Britain in October 2003 with the card: “Banksy 1975. Crimewatch UK Has Ruined The Countryside For All Of Us. 2003. Oil On Canvas”.

However, the actual paintings were simply lesser copies of an original idea used by the anti-war artist Peter Kennard and in particular The Haywain With Cruise Missile from back in 1982.

The two artists were in fact close friends and exhibited together in Santa’s Ghetto in December 2006 – which meant Kennard was flattered by the imitation and would never have considered claiming copyright.

However, Banksy was in charge of tens of thousands of pounds worth of Kennard’s work after the Christmas exhibition when it was stolen and he has so far only paid back a third of the loss despite all the money rolling in from films, books and celebrity patrons.

Banksy became a global phenomenon – no doubt leading to his New York exhibition – after daubing graffiti of a window and scenes of paradise on the “security wall” built by Israel across Palestinian land.

But the biting satire was again the inspiration of another artist – this time the soldier turned street stencil painter Arofish.

Banksy’s spray painted pictures included the domestic scene of a pair of sofas and coffee table before a large window showing the view across beautiful rolling hills and a large mountain in the distance.

The break in the wall and the comic, childlike style were meant as a wry attack on the brutal appearance of the 30ft high concrete wall and a comment about the plight of the residents living in its shadow.

Activity holiday

But can reveal that the design was anything but original and the idea of travelling to the Middle East to make such a high profile statement was actually stolen from another British artist.

Banksy was among the attendees of the opening of an art exhibition at The Foundry in Old Street on Wednesday, April 6, 2004, in the bohemian London district of Shoreditch showing the work of graffiti stencil artist and former soldier known as Arofish.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was a series of stencils painted on the gallery wall along with photographs of the same designs painted onto the Israeli security wall.

The main image shows two Palestinians looking out of a window, as if through the wall, to a scene of rolling hills and distant mountains, captioned with the words ‘a view to peace’.

A full fifteen months later in July and August 2005 Banksy would paint the same image, changed to his famous Gary Larson inspired style, on the same wall and make the statement that the security wall was “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.

Public schoolboys

Ever since, friends and associates of Arofish have tried to persuade him to take legal action, not least because Banksy himself has made hundreds of thousands of pounds from the value of the copyright for his pictures.

The row was further ignited when photographs of Banksy’s design of a threatening cash point – with an arm coming out and grabbing a small girl – were published. Friends immediately compared it to an Arofish design of a cash point for asylum seekers.

A source at the time said: “Arofish is sick and tired of people coming up to him and saying Banksy has stolen his designs. It really is getting to him. But because he wants to retain his anonymity and does not agree with artists imposing copyright he will not take legal action.

“He is limited by the principles that art should be shared and should be free, principles Banksy seems to have forgotten himself.

“Arofish was pleased that Banksy went to Israel even if he got the idea from him. He believes that the separation wall is a monstrosity and everyone should deface it. If the profits Banksy made went to charity this issue would not arise.”

At the beginning of the film Banksy, shown only in silhouette, says: “It’s not Gone with the Wind but there’s probably a moral in there somewhere.” The film suggests working class people offering to help out are trying to cash in on your success.

The moral from the real life Banksy however, is that public schoolboys are much better at making money from other people’s talent.

Banksy presents himself in the film as an earnest artist taken in by Thierry – a working class eccentric filmmaker and absent father of two who cashes in to the tune of $1million by imitating his art and using their association to get press attention.

The elusive Bristol street artist has now been named as Robin Gunningham, born July 28, 1973, who attended the independent Bristol Cathedral School, a 17th Century former monastery which now charges fees of around £9,240 a year. The school’s former students include supermodel Sophie Anderton.

Indeed, Gunningham’s father Peter is a retired contracts manager from the Whitehall area of Bristol and his mother Pamela Ann Dawkin-Jones was a company director’s secretary and grew up in the exclusive surroundings of Clifton. Very street.