Banksy, who at the time was working on his show Turf War in east London, spoke to former BBC arts correspondent Nigel Wrench about the anti-authority nature of his work still present today.
Now, 20 years later, the BBC has released the interview in full as The Bansky Story, which is available on BBC Sounds. During the interview, Banksy appeared to confirm his first name.
“Are you happy for me to use your name? I mean, The Independent has,” Mr Wrench asked Bansky, who replied: “Yeah.”
“Is it Robert Banks?” the journalist continued, to which Banksy replied: “It’s Robbie.” “Robbie. OK. Robbie,” Mr Wrench reiterated.
Over the years, Banksy’s real identity has long been speculated about. One such name is that of Robin Gunningham, who was recently named as the first defendant in a legal action accusing the artist and his company Pest Control Ltd of defamation.
Previously, it had been rumoured that Robert Del Naja, also known as 3D, of the group Massive Attack is Banksy, Mr Del Naja also began his career as a graffiti artist, and both have addressed the similarities in their work, claiming to be friends and thus two separate people.
Banksy began his career as a graffiti artist painting across Bristol. Turf War, which ran for three days in Dalston in 2003, was his first gallery show in the UK and helped raise him to prominence in the British art scene. It helped establish the artist’s trademark mystique, with the exhibition’s location only being released one day before it began.
It featured graffitied police vans, images of Winston Churchill with a grass Mohican and the late Queen as a chimpanzee, and live farm animals with the Met Police’s blue-checked patterns painted all over them.
Speaking to the BBC in 2003, Banksy was asked about the modern art establishment, given many of them would be attending his show. In response, Banksy said that he was uninterested in the “art world”.
“I’m not really into the art world, the ‘Brit art’ thing,” he told Mr Wrench. “I don’t know… it’s not something that interests me, really. I’m more into art that’s voted for by people with their feet than I am into one millionaire judging you and telling people whether you’re ‘art’ or not.”
When Mr Wrench pointed out that his canvases were on sale for £15,000, Banksy responded: “Apparently so! That’s not what I get for ‘em! No. I make paintings these days, you know? And yeah, I dunno who buys them actually. Maybe I should find out. Good point.”
Instead, he said that he was much more interested in street art, and that people can paint over his work if they don’t like it.
“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 said. “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?”
‘The Banksy Story’ is on BBC Sounds now