Cleaners on the London Underground who “noticed some sort of ‘rat thing'” graffiti on a train had cleaned it off — to the reported horror of ‘social media’ when it was found to be by Banksy.
Transport for London had initially said that the work had been removed on Friday because it breached the organisation’s “strict anti-graffiti policy”.
TfL said in comments reported by The Telegraph that while it “appreciated the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face masks”, the work “has been removed”.
“We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location,” TfL however added.
Its removal had allegedly “prompt[ed] a backlash on social media”, according to the London Evening Standard.
Professional graffiti merchant ‘Banksy’ — who is speculated to be a middle-class private school-educated forty-year-old from Bristol, a mecca for British left-wing activism — had revealed on Tuesday through his YouTube and Instagram accounts that the piece was his.
The video shows the secretive graffitist disguised as a cleaner, and using stencils to paint rats on the inner walls of the last car of a Circle Line train. Reportedly inspired by the coronavirus lockdown, the work attempts to encourage passengers to wear masks.
However, it turns out that diligent sanitation workers had seen the series of vermin spewing blue-green snot, and thinking it was run-of-the-mill graffiti, removed it.
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A source within TfL told the Evening Standard on Wednesday: “When we saw the video, we started to look into it and spoke to the cleaners. It started to emerge that they had noticed some sort of ‘rat thing’ a few days ago and cleaned it off, as they should.
“It rather changes the aspect for anyone seeking to go down the route of accusing us of cultural vandalism.”
talkRADIO journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer ordered the prosecution of Banksy for breaking the law. While Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes said: I don’t care who he is or what his net worth is, this is vandalism, which is illegal. The cleaner did the right thing in removing it. It’s very revealing this: London really is now governed by Twitter.”
Oh FFS. Graffiti is graffiti. Clean it off and prosecute Banksy for breaking the law. Next?
Banksy's virus-inspired Tube artwork ACCIDENTALLY removed by cleaner https://t.co/o1fupBjxMM
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) July 15, 2020
Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill branded the episode a “juvenile stunt”, writing in The Spectator on Wednesday that Banksy’s depiction of his iconic rats — sneezing, putting on masks, holding onto a bottle of antiseptic gel — gives an insight into how Bansky sees the British people: as vermin.
“We’re diseased rodents. Rats who must have our infected mouths gagged,” Mr O’Neill observed, branding Banksy an “establishment figure” loved by the Hollywood elites and art dealers.
“Banksy mocks his own establishment status and that makes the establishment love him even more and it’s all such a pile of self-congratulatory awfulness that you find yourself wishing for End Times,” he said.
Banksy thumbed his nose at the art establishment in 2018, where unbeknownst to the auction house or bidders, Canvas of Girl With Balloon, which sold for £1.02 million, had a build-in shredder so that when the auctioneer’s gavel rung in the final sale, the piece was destroyed.
In a further mockery of the concept of art, brokers had said that the stunt might actually have increased the value of the work to £2 million.
I don’t care who he is or what his net worth is, this is vandalism, which is illegal, the cleaner did the right thing in removing it. It’s very revealing this: London really is now governed by Twitter. https://t.co/lZxjdJE7AL
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) July 15, 2020