Whether in the form of social media trolling, online backlash, or physical altercations, individuals in the public eye are often subject to negative press. Banksy, the famously mysterious UK-based street artist is no different.
While many of his pieces are revered and go on to sell for many thousands of pounds all over the world, some pieces have met a different fate – being defaced for all manner of reasons, from attention-grabbing to a distaste for the messaging behind the piece.
So, which are Banksy’s most famous defaced art pieces?
Defaced Art in the Headlines
One of the most recent examples of a Banksy piece of art being defaced appeared in the Guardian in March 2021, with the painting of an escaping inmate being vandalized with red paint to cover a part of the artwork and the slogan ‘Team Robbo’ below.
For fans and followers of Banksy, this ‘Team Robbo’ tag will already be familiar, directly relating to the fallout between Banksy and another street artist who went by the name Robbo before his untimely death in 2014.
While much of the hype around this rivalry has calmed down, there are still instances where fans of Robbo will carry on the trend and tag Banksy pieces with the name of their favored artist.
A similar occurrence appeared on the streets of Lowestoft in March 2022, when a recreation of a formerly removed Banksy work (recreated by artist Greater Than) found its protective covering plastered with the ‘Team Robbo’ tag.
Both of these instances refer directly to the movement of Robbo himself who, over the years before his death, would periodically add his tag to the original works of Banksy as part of their feud.
But Robbo isn’t the only inspiration behind defaced Banksy’s works and art pieces.
Defaced Art on the Coast
Returning once again to Lowestoft, back in the summer of 2021, a similar occurrence happened when a confirmed Banksy piece titled ‘Spraycation’ was covered in white paint.
The artwork shows the signature Banksy rat motif sitting in a deckchair, with the artist confirming he had created the work on a Saturday night.
By Sunday morning, the piece had been defaced – with the local council promising to bring in a specialist restoration team to remove the white paint.
One interesting example of a defaced Banksy comes in the form of the teddy bear claw which was painted on Gorleston seafront.
The claw, which sits above a bench, was added to overnight by a local street artist – who sprayed a selection of teddy bears underneath the claw and behind the bench in a move that gave the artwork more depth.
While locals and art lovers alike believed this to be a potential collaboration between Banksy and the local artist called EMO, vandals added their own spin when they defaced the work with red paint – crossing out the EMO tag and writing ‘Ego’ instead and adding red to the teddy bear under the claw.
Professional Cleaners, Not Art Critics
Some of the most famous instances where a Banksy art piece has been defaced actually come from Transport for London, with the first occurring in the early 2000s where a years old piece called Pulp Fiction (which showed John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson holding bananas instead of guns) was painted over by TFL cleaners.
The defence that TFL, “employs professional cleaners, not art critics” was used, though the case still made headlines as the piece near Old Street station had previously been valued at £300,000. Suffice to say, the community of Banksy sellers were up in arms!
TFL made the headlines again during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when Banksy created a statement piece of Covid-infected vermin inside a tube carriage – only for it to once again be removed under the TFL anti-graffiti guidelines.
Quoting TFL, a spokesperson invited Banksy to recreate the piece somewhere more appropriate – stating that the removal was, this time, perfectly deliberate.
Finally, to self-sabotage – and Banksy’s own move to deface his work with the self-shredding ‘Girl with Balloon’ piece which was on show at the Contemporary Art Auction.
The shredder was actually built into the frame and was designed to shred the piece as soon as the hammer hit the block on the auction of the piece. The end result was a half-shredded piece – which sold more recently for £16million.
Defaced or otherwise, the community of Banksy buyers and sellers are always looking for new pieces. If you’ve got a piece to sell, now is the perfect time to learn its value from an expert.
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