Two of Banksy’s newest murals were vandalized just days after the elusive street artist officially confirmed that he’d created them. The artworks numbered among ten discovered across several coastal towns in Norfolk and Suffolk, England, earlier this month, reports BBC News. The series, dubbed “A Great British Spraycation,” features such scenes as a group of hermit crabs, a couple dancing atop of a bus shelter and a seagull attempting to steal food.
Photos shared on social media over the weekend showed white paint covering what was originally an image of a rat sipping from a cocktail while lounging in a chair. Per a statement from East Suffolk Council, security guards in the town of Lowestoft caught the perpetrator mid-act and managed to prevent further damage from occurring.
“We are naturally appalled someone has chosen to behave in such a selfish and mindless way, given how excited we are all by the appearance of these works here on the east coast,” the statement reads. “We are, however, hopeful that this particular work can be restored, and are engaging with specialists.”
Local residents expressed outrage over the vandalism.
“It’s an amazing piece of work and it’s been ruined. People obviously have nothing better to do,” 24-year-old Faye Louise Stone tells BBC News. “It’s not every day that Banksy comes and does artwork in our town. We should embrace it, not destroy it.”
One of the Banksy pieces on the Lowestoft seafront has been defaced.— Ben Parker (@BP_BBC) August 15, 2021
Volunteers are carefully trying repair the work. pic.twitter.com/titDHfFtXp
East Suffolk Council had hoped that the piece, along with four nearby murals from the series, would bolster its bid to become the next U.K. City of Culture, reports Holly Hume for SuffolkLive. Winning the nationwide competition, which is held every four years, would bring a major boost to the local tourism industry.
“If [Banksy] wanted to endorse that bid, then putting some street art up in the town is the ideal way of doing so,” councilor Edward Back tells SuffolkLive.
Speaking with BBC News, Paul Gough, principal and vice chancellor of Arts University Bournemouth, says that rats have been the artist's “rodent of choice for decades: irreverent, playful characters that have [also] popped up during his Covid-inspired period.”
The day before news of the Lowestoft defacement broke, vandals targeted another Banksy mural of a machine game claw in Gorleston, Norfolk. Additional graffiti of teddy bears positioned beneath the claw is thought to be the work of local artist Emo, added as a potential tribute or collaboration between the two artists.
Resident Jayne Kimbling posted a photograph of the damage on Facebook Friday. Red spray paint covers Emo’s signature, with the word “Ego” written out instead—perhaps as a criticism of the partnership, per Casey Cooper-Fiske of the Eastern Daily Press.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council has since ordered the protection of the defaced machine game claw, installing a clear panel over the work, reports Jasper King for the Eastern Daily Press. Per East Suffolk Council, protective measures for the Banksy pieces in Lowestoft and Oulton Broad have been initiated and will be implemented soon.
Some locals think these safeguarding steps are unnecessary.
“The beauty of Banksy is that his work is created out in vulnerable locations,” resident Richard Girling tells King of the Eastern Daily Press. “They are wonderfully exposed and that is the beauty of it. Where else would you ever see an artwork worth millions of millions of pounds on a sea wall?”
In addition to the two vandalized pieces, two installments in the series have been removed.
One, located in Gorleston, showed two children flying off an inflatable dinghy. Great Yarmouth Borough Council covered the mural up, citing the 2018 death of a 3-year-old girl who suffered fatal injuries after an inflatable trampoline she was on burst at a nearby beach, per BBC News. The council’s official statement thanked Banksy for the work and stated that members were “confident” the work could be restored at a “more suitable, alternative location.”
The other artwork, located in King’s Lynn, was first spotted August 4. Banksy added a pink tongue and an ice cream cone to a statue of Frederick Savage, who served as the Norfolk town’s mayor between 1889 and 1890. Council workers took down the playful add-ons to the monument, which was unveiled in 1892, following complaints by locals, writes Rebekah Chilvers for Lynn News.
Banksy has yet to comment on any of the recent developments.