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by Mick the Ram
For world famous street artist Banksy, part of his appeal is the mystery surrounding his true identity. Officially this remains unknown, but a recently unearthed recording of a 20-year old interview that the elusive graffiti specialist gave, appears to reveal that his first name is Robbie.
For some time now there has been speculation online that his name was either Robert or Robin, but none have ever been verified.
The 2003 disclosure occurred in a radio conversation with BBC reporter Nigel Wrench, which gave his fans a rare opportunity to hear his voice. It was arranged to mark the opening of Banksy’s Turf War show in east London that summer.
An edited version of the brief chat was aired a few weeks after that, but it transpired that not all of the material was used.
When Mr Wrench was listening to “The Banksy Story” podcast earlier this year it prompted him to recover the full interview on a minidisc, which he had kept at his home.
When playing it through he was stunned to hear the artist, who was in the 20’s at that time, reply when questioned if his name is Robert Banks, by saying: “It’s Robbie”.
He had risen to prominence through a series of huge graffiti pieces that appeared on buildings across the country, each marked by a satirical theme. Since then he has won worldwide acclaim and has an army of fans, including many A-list celebrities.
Not knowing was better for some
For some, hearing the news will possibly take away some of the allure that his work has. The not knowing and the air of mystery that came with it, for many is what gives his art its special feel. Others will point to his outstanding ability and suggest it makes absolutely no difference.
In defence of vandalism
The interview in which Banksy opens up about his approach to art, gives an amazing insight into the mind of the man. Other parts of the never-before-heard material, play his alternative defence of his artwork – essentially producing graffiti undercover at speed – which many have criticised as nothing more than vandalism.
When pushed on the objections, The controversial Bristolian said: “I am not here to apologise for it; it’s a quicker way of making your point, right?”
He then comically referenced his mother’s cooking habits as a comparison. “It’s quick, sort of in the same way my mother used to cook a roast every Sunday and said every week that it ‘takes hours to make and just minutes to eat’.” He then clarified that by highlighting: “These days she eats microwave meals for one and seems a lot happier, so I am kind of taking that approach to art really; I just want to get it done and dusted.”
With air of indifference he suggested that those who had a problem with his graffiti should: “Go out! Trash things! and Have fun!” He also added that there was nothing stopping people painting over his work, although that was said two decades ago, before their valuation went off the scale.
His most expensive painting ever sold at auction was the seminal Love is in the Bin which sold in 2021 at Sotheby’s for a remarkable £18.6m. It had famously sold three years earlier at the same auction house for £1.1m, before dramatically shredding itself.
Banksy had housed the artwork in a deep frame, plugged in to facilitate built-in electrical lights, but which also powered a shredding device hidden in the bottom edge, which activated upon the sale. In doing it became the only piece of art created at auction, and only added to its appeal and value.