He has been called “the invisible man of modern art”, “the graffiti revolutionary” and “the nameless artist”. He is Banksy, the most iconic and mysterious street artist ever. Well, the BBC has brought to light an interview with him which for years remained buried in the broadcaster’s archives and he himself revealed what his real name is. In that recording dated 2003, the BBC journalist Nigel Wrench asks him if his name is Robert Banks as some claim, and the artist replies without hesitation: «I’m Robbie».
The full interview can be listened to at BBC Sounds as Radio 4’s The Banksy Story. A bonus episode of the podcast was specially recorded after the recording was discovered. It also includes the fact that Banksy compares his approach to art—which involves quickly producing graffiti undercover—to instant meals reheated in the microwave. «My action is rapid – said the artist from Bristol – and he added now, however, I want to finish it and dust it off». This is one of the first known radio interviews with the artist, often described as “mysterious and secretive” in the press.
The true identity of Banksy, who was born on 28 July 1973 in Bristol, has never been revealed, and the interview gives his fans, including many A-list celebrities, a rare chance to hear his voice.
The artist – aged 20 at the time – was interviewed by Mr Wrench, a former BBC arts correspondent, over the summer, to celebrate the opening of Banksy’s Turf War show in east London. An edited version aired that July on the BBC afternoon programme. However, not all the material was used. Many years later, Mr. Wrench was listening to the podcast “The Banksy Story,” which prompted him to retrieve the entire interview on a minidisc at his home.
The unreleased material includes Banksy’s defense of unidentified art as vandalism. “I’m not here to apologize for that,” he told Mr. Wrench. “Art on the walls is a quick way to get your point across, right?” Just as my mother cooked the roast every Sunday and every Sunday she said, “It takes hours to make, minutes to eat.”