Banksy Works

Waving the White Flag: Banksy Works Take a Hit

Its been a rough month for Banksy and his works, following the theft of one of his murals in Paris, now his EU mural in Dover has been painted over.

Police in Paris have launched an investigation into the theft of one of its most prized graffiti works by Banksy. Last year, an image of a rat wearing a mask and holding a penknife, appeared on a sign outside of the Pompidou Centre.

Banksy posted an image onto his Instagram confirming that the rat was one of his own. The image was accompanied by the tagline ‘Fifty years since the uprising in Paris 1968. The birthplace of modern stencil art’.

The mural was a memorial to the events of May 1968. Paris saw a month of riots and protests by students and unionists against the leadership of Charles de Gaulle.

Banksy’s continuous use of the rat within his works represents fellow street artist ‘Blek le Rat’. Le Rat’s work uses stencils rather than spraypainting freehand, much like Banksy’s own technique.

The rat holds a utility knife which is similar to that which the artists use to cut out their stencils. The mural could almost be seen as a homage to the work of Mr Le Rat and his influence over street art.

The Theft

Unfortunately, wherever Banksy goes so does the high price of his works. Previous works have been sold for up to £1m but it is difficult to get the paintings into the auction. Moreover, it takes a large amount of manpower to transport the works, as seen in Port Talbot.

Yet still, the works of the great Banksy tantalise viewers and taunt thieves and vandals. Last year, security guards at the Pompidou caught thieves attempting to steal the image of the rat.

To stop vandals painting over the image, the mural was covered by a thick sheet of plexiglass. However, the thieves managed to cut the image away from the sign using a saw.

The police were alerted to the theft at 4:15 am on Monday 2nd September and have been analysing security cameras.

The Pompidou Centre made a statement after the work was announced stolen:

“Although this piece was not part of our collection, we were proud that the artist chosen the side of our building to create it, as an homage to the events of May ’68.”

However, this was not the first time that a work by Banksy has been stolen in Paris. An artwork on the Bataclan, a tribute to the 2015 terror attack which killed 90 people, was removed by hooded figures in the night.  The surveillance cameras show a group of hoodied figures armed with angle grinders removing the work then driving off in a truck.

The White Flag Says It All

In 2017, Banksy announced that he was the creator of the monumental European Union flag on the side of Castle Amusements in Dover. The mural showed a man on a ladder chipping away at the twelfth star symbolising Brexit. However, last month the mural was removed from view after being covered up with scaffolding.

Many feared the worst and Banksy confirmed this with another Instagram post, on Thursday, of his previous plans for the building. An image of the building with a rather different mural was posted.

This image shows the flag that has crumpled to the ground and the man still chipping away at the singular star. Banksy’s plans were accompanied by the current state of the building, a white square on a rather cream building. The caption said:

“Oh. I had planned that on the day of Brexit I was going to change the piece in Dover to this…But it seems they have painted over it. Nevermind. I guess a big white flag says it just as well.”

The building is owned by the Godden family who has already had a Banksy painted on their property. The mural ‘Art Buff’ portrayed a woman staring at an empty plinth.

The work was immediately vandalised but there was no permanent damage. As I have previously mentioned, having a Banksy can draw a large amount of unwanted attention. Therefore, the owners of the wall in Payers Park have it shipped off to the US for sale.

It was not to be, however, and the High Court ruled that it be returned. The tenants of ‘Dreamland Leisure Limited’, the people who removed the work, AKA Jeremy and Jordan Godden, were prevented from selling or dealing with the work.

A Shock to Supporters

The presence of a Banksy on their building probably didn’t bring back the best of memories for the Godden’s but it did bring support from the community.

Recently, supporters had claimed that the mural was deteriorating and required preservation. They believed that this was the purpose of the scaffolding.

Furthermore, the work also caught the attention of Brexiteer MP Charlie Elphicke who claimed that the presence of the scaffolding was ‘cultural vandalism’.

It is a terrible thing to lose two murals in one month, especially when they carry such important messages. However, this does raise the question: are Banksy’s made to last and can we fully protect them?

I previously doubted that they were meant to last but with this announcement of Banksy’s further plans for Dover I am unsure. The idea that Banksy has further plans for these artworks makes them long term installations and changes their purpose as temporary messages.

The premature removal of these images can stop these planned developments. Fingers crossed that bad things do not come in threes and we won’t lose any more important Banksy’s this month.

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