Who is Banksy? It is one of the art world’s, perhaps even pop culture’s, most enduring mysteries since the street artist burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. But we may be one step closer to the artist’s true identity following the recent discovery of a lost BBC interview in which Banksy appears to confirm his name.
The BBC reported on Monday that it had unearthed a 2003 interview between the young up-and-coming street artist Banksy and the former BBC arts correspondent Nigel Wrench. The original recording was edited for a spot on BBC radio which was then used as part of the BBC podcast series The Banksy Story which was released in July. But Wrench, having listened to the podcast series, was inspired to revisit the full original recording and discovered a lot more buried information about the artist that was never used.
In the discovered audio, Wrench speaks to Banksy, who was in his 20s at the time, ahead of the artist’s Turf War show in East London in the summer of 2003. Banksy is asked by Wrench if his name is “Robert Banks”, and the artist replies, “It’s Robbie.”
The identity of Banksy has long intrigued the art world, and in particular, the feverish tabloid press in the U.K. The artist rarely gives interviews, and that has added to his mystique. In one of his few early interviews, the artist spoke to the Guardian in 2003, and he was described as “white, 28, scruffy casual – jeans, T-shirt, a silver tooth, silver chain and silver earring. He looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.”
Over the last two decades, various people have been identified as Banksy, most notably Robert Del Naja, also known as 3D and a co-founder of the hugely influential trip-hop act Massive Attack. The supposed evidence that Del Naja was Banksy included that they were both from the Bristol area, and the musician also dabbled in graffiti at a young age. Jamie Hewlett, the artist and designer best known for co-creating the band Gorillaz and the comic book Tank Girl, has also in the past been suggested as the true identity of Banksy.
In 2008, The Daily Mail claimed that a Bristol-based man named Robin Gunningham was Banksy. The newspaper spoke to Gunningham’s school friends and peers to corroborate the story. The Mail reports that Gunningham started going by the name Robin Banks, which went on to become Banksy. In October, The Sunday Times reported that Gunningham may be forced to reveal his identity due to a defamation claim to settle whether he is behind famous murals.