Cleaners accidentally paint over Banksy stencil
Date: 29 Apr 2010 | | Views: 2267
Council cleaners in the Australian city of Melbourne have accidentally painted over a piece of Banksy street art which was potentially worth tens of thousands of pounds.
The stencil of a rat descending in a parachute was believed to be the only remaining work left by the elusive British graffiti artist during his time in Melbourne in 2003.
Cleaning workers contracted by Melbourne council had been asked to “remove all graffiti and tagging from unapproved street art sites” and clean the CBD’s graffiti-filled Hosier Lane, which has five approved street art sites which were left alone by the cleaners.
Melbourne Council CEO Kathy Alexander said despite the council’s knowledge that the rat stencil was a Banksy original, the cleaners were unaware of its significance and removed it because it was surrounded by graffiti tags.
“The removal of the rat stencil was not an error on the cleaner’s behalf as they were under instruction to clean all unapproved areas and were not made aware of the significance of the artwork,” Ms Alexander said.
In 2008 one of Banksy’s better known Melbourne works – a stencil of an old-fashioned diver wearing a trench coat at the rear wall of a building on Cocker Alley – was vandalised despite it being protected by a street art permit and a covered by a screen.
That same year a Banksy work sold at Sotheby’s in London for £636,500.
Banksy has long been a supporter of the street art in the Victorian capital, where he spent a few months before becoming famous around the world as a guerrilla artist for his stencilled graffiti works which generally appear anonymously overnight.
He once described the street art in Melbourne, which is known as the arts capital of Australia, as “arguably Australia’s most significant contribution to the arts since they stole all the Aborigines’ pencils.”
Ms Alexander said it was “very unfortunate” that the Banksy work had been removed and the council would implement retrospective legal street art permits to ensure other famous works are protected.
“As the street art capital of Australia, we are aware of the popularity of Banksy’s works and have made exceptions to preserve them in the past,” she said. “In hindsight, we should have acted sooner to formally approve and protect all known Banksy works.”
The popularity of Banksy, who has become a collector’s favourite with his controversial images such as snogging policemen or the House of Commons full of chimpanzees, has soared in recent years.
Last year a one-off show at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery by the graffiti artist (whose identity remains unknown) was the 30th most visited exhibition in the world, and his works have been snapped up by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Kate Moss.
The artist also recently delved into movies, releasing his first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, dubbed ‘the world’s first street art disaster movie’, last month.