Banksy is the most famous street artist in the world, but his fame can have consequences for his public works, as has become more apparent in this past month. Just this past week, a landlord ripped one of his murals from the side of a building in England. Before that, actor Christopher Walken painted over an original Banksy for a scene in the TV show he now stars in, The Outlaws.
After Banksy confirmed that a mural on the side of an electrical shop was one of his authentic pieces, the landlord had the section of the wall with the mural on it—a painting of a child holding a crowbar—carefully removed. The owner seemed to be aware that Banksy’s work regularly sells for huge sums, and reportedly tried to sell the building at a higher price. It had been on the market for $402,000 before Banksy painted on it. Afterward, the owner re-listed it for $671,000.
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“If it’s being removed to be displayed in a more prominent location within the town in an artistic context, then that’s lovely,” Miles Barry, chairman of the British artists advocacy group Easterly Artists, told the BBC.
But he noted that if the owner did this to merely sell the work at auction, it would be “a great shame.” He continued, “It’s not just about the painting on the wall … There’s a social comment there about resources.”
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Earlier this year, a landlord in Nottingham, England, removed a mural of a girl playing with a tire and promptly sold it to an Essex art gallery for a six-figure sum.
At least those works are still around. You couldn’t say the same for the one that figured in The Outlaws.
On the show, Walken painted over a Banksy painting of a rat. The character that Walken plays, a man living in Bristol named Frank, is forced to do community service in the city as a punishment for some minor offenses. His supervisor tasks him with painting over graffiti, including a priceless Banksy original.
Although The Outlaws is fiction, the Banksy was the real deal, according to an interview with a show spokesperson with the BBC. Somewhat predictably, however, this scene was a prank. Banksy had given the showrunners permission to paint over his work.