Banksy’s real name? 2003 interview could have revealed it

(CNN) — Anonymity is at the heart of the mythology surrounding the elusive street artist Banksy, but he may have revealed his name in a resurfaced interview.

First recorded in 2003, the interview was published on Tuesday as a bonus episode of the BBC podcast series “The Banksy Story”.

When Nigel Wrench, former BBC arts correspondent, asked Banksy if his name was “Robert Banks”, as The Independent newspaper had then reported, the artist replied: “It’s Robbie.”

Wrench shared the archival interview with podcast host James Peak, a self-confessed “superfan” of Banksy’s work, after listening to the 10-episode series that had charted the artist’s rise and included an unverified recording of his voice from a interview recovered from 2005 with US National Public Radio (NPR).

However, not everything may be as it seems, as is often the case with Banksy, an artist known for his satirical humor, subversive methods and anti-authority themes.

“A name comes up,” Peak told CNN on Tuesday. “Is it the right name? Is it a clever joke?” Peak added, alluding that a name like Robbie Banks could be a good play on words.

Banksy’s “Love In The Bin” went through a hidden shredder seconds after the hammer fell at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on October 5, 2018. (Credit: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images)

Shielded in his anonymity, Banksy’s distinctive graffiti art has appeared around the world, on the walls of bombed buildings in Ukraine; on t-shirts to support protesters facing trial for toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in England; and in Paris, highlighting Europe’s 2018 migration crisis.

His 2003 exhibition, which opened shortly after his interview with Wrench, featured graffitied police vans, an image of Winston Churchill with a Mohawk, and live farm animals painted in the blue checks of the Metropolitan Police.

Banksy addresses these political themes in his work with Wrench, revealing the “core” of his early ideas before becoming a global icon, while considering the advantages of using graffiti as a medium to produce art, according to Peak.

“If you’re a guy who makes art that sells for ridiculous amounts of money and you have this… administration around you, I often wonder how pure you can be in your intention and in your art,” Peak added.

“And what strikes me listening to this interview is that all of that is present and correct… it’s almost as if he’s made a decision about… what his art is for and the means to engage with it.”

Politics, vandalism and anarchy

Despite these political themes that have marked his work from the beginning, Banksy told Wrench in 2003 that he didn’t consider himself “that political.”

And he added: “If you think about anything in your life for more than a second, you have to realize that the shoes you are wearing were made by someone with a pathetic amount of money and that the coffee you drink means that someone, somewhere in the world world, is being murdered.”

Banksy talked about vandalism and his way of understanding art: “(Vandalism) is a faster way to express your point of view.”

“For me, the golden goal is… that it takes you less time to do it than it takes people to see it,” he added.

Asked if his exhibition had to do with anarchism, Banksy told Wrench: “I’m interested in injustice. Who has the right to judge others? If you’ve ever been a victim of the judicial system, you become very skeptical about everything, so I guess I like to turn it around a little bit… I’m interested in finding out who the good guys really are.

According to Peak, listening to the archival interview has only increased his admiration for Banksy, an admiration that arose from realizing the artistic “brilliance”, but also the “warm, human, kind, progressive and liberal feelings… “that support it.

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