Anti-graffiti teams may have unwittingly destroyed a Banksy artwork worth £7.5 million, it has been revealed.
The world’s leading authority on the anonymous artist has given an estimate of what his latest piece on a Tube train would be worth, based on his other works.
Transport for London (TfL) said staff had cleaned off the work on an Underground Circle Line train ‘some days ago’ due to a strict ‘no graffiti’ policy.
Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker said: ‘It’s a huge shame and an opportunity lost for Londoners that the latest Banksy work has already been removed by the anti-graffiti teams at TfL.
‘Of course, we understand why, and we understand it’s highly likely whoever removed it was following procedure and had no idea they were destroying a Banksy.
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‘Had TfL management known, and had the opportunity to remove and protect the installation, we estimate its value as a complete package to be in the region of £7.5 million.
‘It’s a shame the opportunity was missed to perhaps remove the carriage from the network and turn it into a tourist attraction for all Londoners and the world to enjoy.
‘Sadiq Khan must be kicking himself, but Banksy has yet again proved his ability to entertain and make a statement with such daring and style.’
Art brokers believe the piece would have been worth this high value due to the popularity of Banksy’s iconic rats. His works in this style have rocketed in price over the past few years.
The company, which has more than 25 years’ experience dealing in art, added it wished to petition TfL to preserve the valuable artwork – until it found the graffiti had already been wiped away.
The piece is now on view to staff and patients on Level C of Southampton General Hospital.
When asked about the Tube Banksy, a TfL spokesperson said: ‘We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing.
‘In this particular case, the work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy. We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.’
They would not comment on the estimated value of the artwork, or confirm whether TfL staff knew it was an original Banksy – but sources have suggested they had no clue.
The Government paid a £1.6 billion bailout package to TfL in May to help keep Tube and bus services running until September.
Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the body was close to running out of money during lockdown and would have to operate a reduced service to survive.
Banksy uploaded a short video to Instagram and YouTube yesterday afternoon with the caption, ‘If you don’t mask – you don’t get.’
The minute-long clip shows a man, believed to be the elusive artist, entering an Underground station wearing a protective suit, as if to begin a deep clean.
But it quickly becomes clear that the tank he’s holding is full of spray paint instead of cleaning fluid, as various scenes show him spray painting some of his famous rats on the window and walls of the Tube carriage.
One rat was portrayed sneezing green droplets across the train window, indicating the spread of coronavirus.
Other works show rats using discarded masks as parachutes, as well as one using antibacterial gel – a clear reference to the pandemic and the measures put in place to help stop the spread of the virus.
The video ends with the artist, known for his thought-provoking political works, leaving the train and station.
The Tube doors close revealing his final hand-graffitied message reading, ‘I get lockdown – but I get up again,’ a nod to the 1997 lyric in Chumbawamba’s hit song Tubthumping.
This new artwork comes after a Banksy painting portraying Parliament overrun by chimpanzees sold for a record price for the elusive artist in October 2019.
‘Devolved Parliament’ was put up for auction at Sotheby’s in London and sold for millions after 13 minutes of bidding from 10 determined art enthusiasts.
It sold for £9,879,500. Ahead of it going under the hammer, the artwork was given a guide price of between £1.5 million to £2 million.
The painting comfortably beat the previous auction record for a Banksy piece – $1.9 million, or £1.5 million, for Keep It Spotless which was sold at Sotheby’s in New York.
And two years ago the artist hit the headlines when a £1 million painting shredded itself moments after it was sold at London’s Sotheby’s.
Girl With Balloon is one of Banksy’s most widely recognised works with the stencil spray painting showing a girl reaching towards a heart-shaped balloon.
After the stunt, the artist revealed it hadn’t gone entirely to plan as he’d hoped to shred the entire painting rather than the half that was torn.
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