Yesterday Hackney Council removed a vandalized mural attributed to infamous street artist Banksy from Gillett Square in Dalston, N16. The stencil depicting a young boy holding a teddy bear and a ghetto blaster first appeared opposite the Dalston Jazz Bar in the early hours of Sunday 1st of March this year and sparked excitement and outrage alike.
Only 5 days after the new mural first appeared it was sabotaged by local youths using metallic blue spray paint. Appalled by this act of vandalism, a group of local art foundation students from Hackney Community College restored the piece: “We did it as a gesture of support” said one of the students, who wanted to remain anonymous. “Banksy has proved that you can get your message across without pandering to the art establishment. He is inspirational”, she added.
The restored version of the mural only survived intact for 6 days and on the evening of the 14th of March the Banksy was irretrievably defaced. Nearly 80% of the restored original was covered with paint and inflammatory, homophobic comments were scrawled on the surrounding wall. Thomas Gresford of Gresford’s Architects said: “Having a Banksy opposite the office was truly exciting. I am sad and disappointed that anyone would want to destroy it.”
The street artist and Hackney Council have had a well-documented and tense past, the tensions came to a head in February 2007 after Banksy had been asked by HCD (Hackney Cooperative Development) to create a mural marking the opening of Gillett Square. On the eve of the grand opening Hackney council workers removed the mural despite one of the artist’s works having sold for over £100,000 at Sotheby’s in the same week. Hackney Council have since apologized and made some amendments to their policy on the removal of graffiti. Sarah Hayward, Press Officer for Hackney Council said: “The council’s position on graffiti is straightforward: it is not our place to make value judgments, it is our duty to keep the streets clean. Unless the graffiti is obscene, we do now consult the proprietor of any building we plan on cleaning”.
HCD have since the new mural appeared, applied for planning permission for the wall in question, to manage it as a sanctioned area for street art. The planning application slowed down the removal process at the council. However, as the Banksy was barely visible after the second sabotage, Hackney Council made the decision to jet wash the whole wall. “Street art is essentially ephemeral”, said Adam Hart, Executive Director of HCD, “it is at risk, that is the spirit in which it is put up. It is a lesson in impermanence”.
“It was all so pointless”, said Monica Jones, a local housewife and mother, “Imagine how much money the whole shenanigans has cost. And who pays for it all? We do, the local residents”.
Hackney Borough Police did not want to comment but confirmed that they have been examining CCTV footage from the scene and are conducting an investigation.
Mia Tagg 2009®