Is This a Recording of Banksy’s Voice?

A new podcast claims to have unearthed a short interview with the artist that aired on NPR in 2005

Mural with Banksy's name in London
The secretive street artist Banksy painted this graffiti mural in London in 2008. Carl de Souza / AFP via Getty Images

The identity of Banksy, the enigmatic British street artist, has long been a mystery. But now, a self-described “Banksy superfan” may be one step closer to solving it. A new BBC Radio 4 podcast—“The Banksy Story,” hosted by James Peak—has dug up a three-minute interview from 18 years ago with a man claiming to be the artist.

“Is this Banksy’s actual, actual voice? I don’t know,” asks Peak in episode four before playing the clip. “Maybe it’s a mate of his. Maybe it’s a deliberate misdirection. Maybe it is him; you decide. But if it is him, it’s the first time we’ve heard him.”

The audio clip comes from a segment on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” which was broadcast in the United States on March 24, 2005—and it is, as Peak says, “a bit of a find.”

Prior to the interview, Banksy had snuck his pieces into four major New York institutions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Natural History. NPR host Michele Norris wanted to know how the artist pulled it off. “How is it that you managed to hang artwork without being noticed?” she asked. “These are not always small pieces.”

“I think it’s a testament to the frame of mind most people are in when they’re in a museum,” said the artist. “Most people let the world go past them.”

Banksy - Interview on NPR All Things Considered (March 24, 2005)

Banksy first rose to prominence in the ’90s, when his work was found spray painted on walls in Bristol, England. Since then, he’s developed an instantly recognizable style, and so far nobody has confirmed his identity, though many puzzle solvers have spent a lot of time working on their theories.

These days, the art world celebrates Banksy when he pulls off a stunt. In 2018, after his Girl With Balloon sold at Sotheby's for $1.4 million dollars, the work unexpectedly descended into an in-frame shredding device. In this state, the piece’s popularity increased, and it later sold again for $25.4 million.

Back in 2005, however, Banksy’s unorthodox methods were frequently questioned. In the “All Things Considered” interview, Banksy explained why he decided to sneak his work into museums: “I thought some of [my pieces] were quite good,” he said. “Otherwise they’d just sit at home and no one would see them. If you wait for other people to latch on to what you’re doing, you’d be waiting forever. You might as well cut out the middleman and just go stick it in yourself.”

“But what you’re doing is illegal,” said Norris. He replied: “That’s what makes it good fun.”

These days, Banksy no longer has to sneak his work into galleries. In Glasgow, the Gallery of Modern Art is currently hosting an exhibition called “Cut & Run: 25 Years Card Labor”—Banksy’s first authorized solo show since 2009. He has also used various social media platforms for years, and he has millions of followers. As Smithsonian magazine’s Will Ellsworth-Jones wrote in 2013, “While he may shelter behind a concealed identity, he advocates a direct connection between an artist and his constituency.”

By unearthing the NPR recording, the new podcast offers Banksy superfans an enticing insight into the artist behind the work—though listeners will need to decide for themselves if they think the featured voice is really his.

After all, as Norris asked at the beginning of the interview, “Banksy, we assume that you are who you say you are, but how can we be sure?”

“Oh,” the artist deadpanned, “you have no guarantee of that at all.”

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