Vandals employed by the Melbourne City Council have destroyed a Banksy rat stencil in Hosier Lane. “Council clean-up claims Banksy artwork” Thomas Hunter (The Age April 27, 2010) After the owners of the Nicholas building unsuccessfully trying to protect Banksy’s “Little Diver”, off Flinders Lane, from a freelance vandal who poured paint into the gap in the plexiglass. This time the Council destroyed a Banksy stencil themselves.
I know that many street artists, probably including Banksy, will look on this philosophically. The buffed space will be a canvas for new creations; this is good for the artist but it is not good for the public or the history of street art. Street art is not the property of the street artists – it belongs to everyone. Even if the artist intends for the art to be ephemeral there is no reason for their wishes to be carried out; the person giving the gift does not get to determine how the gift is used.
In a few hundred years time there will be tourists look at a piece of graffiti preserved under plexiglass, or its future equivalent, and read a notice that explained that this rare piece of street art was preserved due to unusual circumstances when most was removed at the time by the local authorities who viewed it as vandalism. And the tourists will shake their heads and comment: “It was the city councils who were vandals destroying this art.”
I know that this will happen because I have seen the sgraffito images of a knight on horseback in Canterbury Cathedral preserved under plexiglass. Many of the painted walls of the Cathedral were scraped clean of painted images by the authorities in previous centuries because they believed that such images were wrong. The current trend to remove graffiti carries with a similar religious fervor. In 1992 in France a local Scout group damaged two prehistoric paintings of bison in the Cave of Mayrière supérieure near the French village of Bruniquel in Tarn-et-Garonne, earning them the 1992 Ig Nobel Prize in archaeology.
What about future history? Or are we at the end of history when the past but not the present must be preserved?
P.S. 29 October 2013, another Banksy bought the buff this year (see the report in The Age) and last year another Banksy was been destroyed by plumbing in Parhran (see Signed & Numbered‘s report).
April 30th, 2010 at 2:18 PM
The Little Diver Resurfaced.. and yet..
Your comments on the Little Diver, against the background of the Council’s cleaning contractors obliterating one (of several) of Melbourne’s Bansky’s rats, correspond with a further unfolding parallel story about the Little Diver which has occurred since the installation of my restoration of the Little Diver – ‘The Little Diver Resurfaced’- three weeks ago.
A story about this restoration can be found at: http://www.desktopmag.com.au/blogs/the-resurrection-of-banksys-little-diver/; an image of the work which found their way onto Reuter can also be found at: http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=37728&int_modo=1
The local Council’s attempts to publicise, protect and commodify Banksy’s stencil in 2008 were controversial in many quarters. The work did not survive long before being vandalised with silver paint – with many observers suggesting the act of obliterating the work was a protest against its commodification.
This controversy has clearly not yet settled; overnight, someone has vandalised this new restoration – as can be seen at: http://twitpic.com/1jhc9b.
Of course, street art is ephemeral and impermanent by its very nature; I am surprised the work lasted largely intact this long. I remain fascinated by the contrast between the delicate whimsy and innocence of Banksy’s Little Diver girl and the obviously strong and destructive impulses her preservation has evoked.
I personally was touched by the loss of the Little Diver girl, and made this piece in response to that. I know that I am not alone in these feelings; I have received a lot of positive feedback from within the local street art and local community about my attempt to commemorate her. But clearly there are those who feel very much otherwise.
I am glad that I got to see the Little Diver resurface – if only for a brief moment.
April 29th, 2011 at 4:38 PM
My theory is that Andy Mac (‘curator’ of Hosier Lane) painted over Banksy’s Little Diver.
July 4th, 2011 at 1:23 AM
[…] on the wall of the Collingwood TAFE. The City of Melbourne has used Banky’s parachuting rat (yes the one that council workers destroyed in Hosier Lane) to promote the city in their publication Hot Spots Winter 20011 (City of Melbourne, June 2011). […]
November 21st, 2011 at 6:29 PM
[…] 53. Holsworth, Mark. “Another Banksy Gone,” on Melbourne Art & Culture Critic blog. [Online] Cited 06/10/2010. melbourneartcritic.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/another-banksy-gone/ […]
May 15th, 2012 at 6:38 PM
Another Banksy parachuting rat has been destroyed by plumbing in Parhran. http://signedandnumbered.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/down-goes-a-banksy/