Banksy’s painting Girl with Balloon infamously self-destructed, partially shredding itself, moments after it was auctioned in 2018 for $2 million.
An unearthed interview with the mysterious artist known as Banksy may have finally revealed his real name.
BBC reporter Nigel Wrench spoke with the artist in 2003, in one of his first radio interviews — and in the recording of their chat, Wrench can be heard asking Banksy if his correct name is “Robert Banks”.
The artist simply replies, “It’s Robbie.”
The clue to the elusive street artist’s identity comes in a new BBC Radio 4 series called The Banksy Story, which looks at his rise in popularity and the impact of his art.
Hailing from Bristol in the UK, Banksy is known for his instantly recognisable street art — a style often considered to be criminal damage, though his work is worth millions to a property owner if it appears on an outside wall.
His painting Girl with Balloon infamously self-destructed, partially shredding itself, moments after it was auctioned in 2018 for $2 million. In 2021, the half-ruined work, renamed Love in the Bin, sold once again — for $36 million.
Banksy’s true identity has always been a mystery, but the BBC reports his first name has been speculated to be Robin, Robert or Robbie.
What resurfaced Banksy interview reveals
After listening to the new BBC series, Wrench dug up the original recordings from his 2003 interview — but the artist doesn’t clearly confirm his surname during the chat.
It’s one of the few times Banksy’s real voice has been heard. After the old recording was found, the podcast added a new episode.
Wrench’s interview took place 20 years ago, when Banksy would have been in his 20s. During the chat, the artist compared his creative process to cooking a meal in the microwave, saying, “It’s quick. I want to get it done and dusted.”
His full identity could soon become known due to a court case because he’s being sued for $2.8 million after allegedly calling on shoppers to target a Guess store in central London. In a since-deleted post, he wrote on his Instagram, “Alerting all shoplifters. Please go to GUESS on Regent Street”, alongside a snap of the shop window.
“They’ve helped themselves to my art without asking. How can it be wrong to do the same to their clothes?” he continued.
Andrew Gallagher, who sells images of Banksy’s work through his company Full Colour Black, has filed a libel case with the UK High Court. Gallagher is the brand director of Brandalised, which works with street artists.
It’s part of a long-time feud between Gallagher and the Banksy Collective, thought to include several artists.
Full Colour Black is seeking $2.8m in damages as well as an injunction against ongoing alleged defamatory statements. It’s not likely Banksy will appear in court in person.
Aaron Wood, Gallagher’s lawyer, previously told The Sun, “The worst thing that could happen to Banksy is if he gets unmasked by appearing in court.
“His work will change in the public’s view if everyone knows who he is and that he has a backstory.”