Overzealous cleaners have scrubbed Banksy’s coronavirus-inspired artwork from the London Underground, even before the street artist could claim it as his own.
Banksy disguised himself as a cleaner earlier this week to graffiti pictures of masked rats and hand sanitiser – titled If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get – on a Circle Line carriage.
Dressed in a high-vis jacket, boiler suit, goggles and face mask, Banksy fooled passengers into thinking he was there as a cleaner.
But he was really spraying images – including a black rat coughing and sneezing green paint across the train carriage’s window and walls – that were designed to enforce public health messages about wearing masks during the pandemic.
However, by the time Banksy had finished and unveiled his latest work in a video on his Instagram account, it had already been scrubbed away by Tube cleaning crews.
“It was treated like any other graffiti on the network,” a source told the BBC.
“The job of the cleaners is to make sure the network is clean, especially given the current climate.”
It’s far from the first time Banksy’s work has been destroyed. In Melbourne in 2016, three of his stencils in a city lane were destroyed to make way for a new door.
“The rubble was mindlessly loaded into a skip,” Melbourne Walks wrote on Facebook at the time.
“Two more Banksy stencils two metres away were previously destroyed in 2014. Five Banksy in three years.
By contrast, another Banksy work – an oil painting showing Britain’s House of Commons overrun with chimpanzees fetched a record near £10 million ($18 million) at auction – in October 2019.
Painted in 2009, the four-metre Devolved Parliament is Banksy’s largest work and one of his best known non-street artworks.
The artist reacted on Instagram at the time, saying it was a record for one of his works and “shame I didn’t still own it”.