Banksy’s style is known around the world and his works sell for millions at auctions. And yet, the elusive artist’s identity remains one of the biggest mysteries in contemporary art. Now, a recently uncovered interview appears to confirm the artist's first name.
Banksy was interviewed by former BBC arts correspondent Nigel Wrench in summer 2003, regarding the opening of his Turf War show. The reporter then asked the artist if his name was “Robert Banks,” as the The Independent newspaper had reported earlier that week. “It’s Robbie,” the artist responded. While parts of the interview aired that year, not all the material was used, including that revealing bit.
Now, after listening to The Banksy Story, a podcast produced by the BBC on the legacy of the artist, Wrench felt inspired to recover the full interview on a minidisc in his house. Although the podcast had long wrapped production, the discovery of the long-lost interview prompted them to release a bonus episode featuring the never-before heard interview.
One of the most popular theories regarding Banksy's identity point to musician Robert Del Naja of the band Massive Attack. Having emerged from the Bristol arts scene and experimented with graffiti, he has long been rumored to be the artist. Should the interview be taken seriously, the artist would indeed be a “Robbie” or “Robert.” But whether Banks is part of a pseudonym would be up for deliberation.
Still, for those who have long been captivated by Banksy's art, the interview also offers a peek into the artist's creativity. When asked about whether graffiti should be considered vandalism, the artist describes it as a quicker way to make a point. “If it’s done properly it is illegal! But I got a good reaction I think off most people from my work. You know, I’ve even had policemen in the past say they kind of like things about it, but… I just think it’s my right to go out and paint it,” he says.
“And it is equally somebody else’s right to go out and paint over it if they don’t like it, you know? It doesn’t actually take very long with a bucket of white paint to paint over things. I think it’s better if you treat the city like a big playground, you know? It’s there to mess about in, you know?”
You can listen to the complete interview, as well as the 10 episodes of The Banksy Story, on BBC Sounds.
A recently uncovered BBC interview appears to confirm Banksy's first name.
When asked by a reporter if his name was “Robert Banks,” the elusive artist replied, “It’s Robbie.”