The Dover District Council chose to demolish the building, along with the mural, as part of a £25.4 million (roughly $32 million) renovation known as the Dover Beacon Project, an initiative to create an educational, cultural and business center on Bench Street in the heart of the coastal town.
Banksy, the mysterious British street artist, created the stencil painting in 2017, one year after the Brexit decision. The piece depicts a European Union flag—a circle of 12 golden stars against a blue background, a design meant to represent unity in Europe. The large-scale flag is cracked, and a worker on a ladder is shown chipping away at one of the stars. Shortly after its creation, Banksy collector John Brandler valued the artwork at £1 million ($1.2 million).
In a statement, Dover officials describe the building, along with two others in the area, as “increasingly dilapidated and dangerous.”
Earlier this year, the Dover District Council hired the Madrid-based company Factum Arte to scan the mural so that it can eventually be recreated “digitally or even physically.”
“Saving the artwork in situ would have cost local taxpayers up to £4 million, and there’s no guarantee that this unsafe building wouldn’t have simply collapsed anyway,” says Trevor Bartlett, leader of Dover District Council, in the statement. “Our plan will create a permanent digital record of the artwork while delivering on our pledge to regenerate the Bench Street area of Dover.”
Additionally, DDS Demolition, the company that tore down the building, is looking into whether parts of the original work can be saved. Contractors have already rescued elements of the mural, including stars and sections of the man and ladder.
A spokesperson for the firm tells CNN’s Lianne Kolirin, “DDS are making every effort to salvage the artwork for the community to enjoy.” If any remains are saved, they will belong to the demolition firm.
Before the building’s demolition, the mural had already sustained significant damage. In 2019, two years after its creation, the mural was whitewashed, though some elements were later restored.
At that time, Banksy wrote on Instagram that he had planned to modify the work on the day Brexit took place. “Seems they’ve painted over it,” he continued. “Nevermind. I guess a big white flag says it just as well.”
The council’s decision to topple the Banksy piece is a blow to the demonstrators who have rallied for its survival for years, insisting the painting is a vital commentary on a historic event.
In the meantime, the demolition company notes that assessing the artwork’s remains will be a lengthy process.
At this stage, “we cannot confirm the plans for the salvaged pieces of art,” a spokesperson for the company tells the Independent’s Maira Butt. “We will share the full story once we have news of whether restoration of all or any parts of the piece is possible.”