Why did the council destroy a £400,000 Banksy?

Sarah Coles
Banksy artwork in Clacton
Banksy artwork in Clacton

A Banksy artwork appeared on a council building in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex this week, but rather than being pleased at being given a free Banksy artwork which would otherwise have cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds, they deemed it offensive and had it scrubbed off within hours.

The graffiti in question featured five grey pigeons with a colourful exotic bird. The pigeons were carrying placards reading 'Migrants not welcome' 'Go back to Africa' and 'Keep off our worms'. It's not known whether the appearance has anything to do with the fact that the town's MP has defected from the Conservative Party to UKIP..

Some might consider it a clever piece of political and social commentary. However, the members of the local council were not among them. They told the Metro they had a complaint about it on Tuesday, went to inspect it on Wednesday, decided it was offensive, and got rid of it.

A spokesman told the BBC: "It could be seen as offensive and it was removed this morning in line with our policy to remove this type of material within 48 hours." He added: "We would obviously welcome an appropriate Banksy original on any of our seafronts and would be delighted if he returned in the future." It's hard to see how that would be a tempting offer.

Banksy has since posted pictures of the mural on his website and confirmed it was his work. This confirmation would have made the mural strikingly valuable. In August a Bristol boys club sold a Banksy mural that had appeared on a boarded-up door in order to keep the place running. The work fetched £400,000.

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Bid to Save Vandalized Banksy Mural
Bid to Save Vandalized Banksy Mural

Perils of graffiti
It's one risk the artist takes by making his artwork free for everyone to enjoy. And it's not the first time that one of his works has not endured.

Banksy had a long-running spat with graffiti artist King Robbo until he fell ill in 2011. Robbo or his supporters have 'amended' a number of his artworks. One of a hitchhiker with a sign saying, 'Anywhere' was changed to read, 'Going Nowhere', while one depicting children raising a Tesco bag on a flagpole had the words "HRH King Robbo" added.

The destruction isn't always deliberate. Last October in Melbourne two Banksy murals on the same building were painted over. The painter had been house-sitting for his son-in-law and decided to paint the house as a nice surprise.

In May 2012 a builder in Melbourne accidentally destroyed a Banksy mural of a parachuting rat. He drilled an enormous hole through the middle of it order to put two water pipes through the wall.

Banksy himself has also done his share of amending other people's artworks. In his rivalry with King Robbo, he painted over one of his works - adding a stencil of a workman wallpapering over most of the letters. Robbo returned and altered the workman to make it look like he was writing King Robbo in large letters.

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