Banksy’s coronavirus-inspired artwork created in a Tube train carriage as it went through central London was wiped away by a cleaner who wrote it off as common graffiti and it may have been worth up to £7.5million, MailOnline can reveal today.
The guerrilla artist, dressed in a high-vis jacket, boiler suit, goggles and face mask, painted a black rat coughing and sneezing green paint across the Circle Line carriage’s window and walls to encourage people to cover their faces in public.
Transport for London has confirmed that the work was removed ‘some days ago’ due to a strict anti-graffiti policy, but that it would welcome Banksy to recreate his message ‘in a suitable location’.
Joey Syer, Co-founder of MyArtBroker.com said it could have been one of Banksy’s most valuable pieces because of its size and creation during Britain’s worst pandemic in living memory. His painting Devolved Parliament, featuring apes in the House of Commons, sold for £9.9million last year.
Mr Syer said: ‘It’s highly likely whoever removed it was following procedure and had no idea they were destroying a Banksy. Had TFL management known, and had the opportunity to remove and protect the installation we estimate it’s value as a complete package to be in the region of £7.5million’.
Tim Maxwell, head of art law at Charles Russell Speechlys in London, told MailOnline: ‘This could have been a highly valuable piece of art. Banksy’s graffitied SWAT van was put on auction at Goodwood last year with an estimate of between £1million to 1.5million. The Tube piece could have been in that ballpark’.
He added: ‘He might do it again. He’s done a few other murals recently including one for the NHS. They [TfL] are unlikely to sell it and would want him to do a new one in a more stable environment because it may not survive on a train. It would also be costly to preserve and may require 24/7 security’.
Banksy was filmed carrying out the work last week and using the same pressure sprayer wielded by London Underground staff to disinfectant trains, the artist sprayed the front third of a carriage, tagged the door leading to the driver’s cab and painted rats using face masks as parachutes or shooting antibacterial hand gel.
Today it emerged that a cleaner believes he cleaned the artwork away last Friday believing it was nothing more than the graffiti specialist teams remove every day. A source told the Evening Standard: ‘When we saw the video, we started to look into it and spoke to the cleaners. It started to emerge that they had noticed some sort of “rat thing” a few days ago and cleaned it off, as they should. It rather changes the aspect for anyone seeking to go down the route of accusing us of cultural vandalism.’
This sneezing and coughing rat is at the centre of a new Banksy artwork on the Tube, carried out as the train passed through central London – but it has already been cleaned off by a Tube worker and it may have been worth £1.5million
The artwork was filmed being made and at one point Banksy ushers away a commuter from the part of the carriage he wants to paint
The piece, named ‘If you don’t mask – you don’t get’, is encouraging Britons to wear masks to halt the spread of Covid-19
He even tags the door leading to the Tube driver’s door as people in the train watched him do it in broad daylight
It ends with the message: ‘I get locked down – but I get up again’ – a play on words on the Chumbawamba hit
A TfL spokesman said: ‘We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing’.
Banksy is filmed entering a Tube station and getting on a train with his paint and stencils. At one point he ushers commuters away as he spray-paints the train as it travelled between Baker Street and Euston in broad daylight.
Fans have hailed his work, calling it ‘powerful’ and ‘crucial’, but critics were shocked that he was able to graffiti a train while posing as a Tube worker completely unhindered before walking off and out of the station minutes later. It also appears he was able to graffiti a wall on a platform with nobody noticing.
His latest work makes it clear that he believes anyone not wearing a mask is risking the spread of coronavirus in a film that ends with the message: ‘I get locked down – but I get up again’ – a play on words on the Chumbawamba hit that plays at the end.
The star, who released a video of him spraypainting the train on Instagram this afternoon, has never identified himself but he is believed to be former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, from Bristol.
The release of the artwork today is significant because it came on the day Boris Johnson revealed that face masks will be compulsory in confined spaces such as shops and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan admitted one in ten on the Tube are still not wearing masks and only around 50 people have been fined.
A British Transport Police spokeperson said: ‘Banksy’s strength of feeling towards the importance of wearing face coverings on public transport mirrors our own, which is why we have hundreds of officers out across the capital every day encouraging passengers to wear their face coverings.
‘Regardless, please remember that it is an offence to deface any Tube or train carriage, or other station property.’
The Tube artwork came weeks after Banksy showed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying ‘people of colour are being failed by the system’.
His comment came after week of protests sparked by the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US.
The graffiti artist, who rose to fame for his provocative street art, shared a painting of a vigil candle burning an American flag along with his message.
He wrote: ‘At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue.
‘But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine.’
He continued: ‘People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system.
‘Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no-one will let them in the apartment upstairs.
‘This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.’
Banksy has shown his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying ‘people of colour are being failed by the system’. He shared a painting of a vigil candle burning an American flag along with his message
Who is Banksy? Experts believe guerilla artist is middle-class boy from Bristol or could even a group led by Massive Attack star 3D
Insiders in the art world have previously claimed there is compelling evidence suggesting that the artist is former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, from Bristol, who is believed to be in his early forties.
In March scientists at Queen Mary University of London backed a Mail on Sunday identifying Mr Gunningham as ‘the only serious suspect’.
They used ‘geographic profiling’, a technique more often used to catch criminals or track outbreaks of disease, by plotting the locations of 192 of Banksy’s presumed artworks. But there have always been doubts.
Is this him? The only clue until now has been a photograph taken in Jamaica 11 years ago of a man with a bag of spray cans and a stencil by his feet, who people say is Robin Gunningham
Others have claimed Banksy is older, having been inspired by French artist Blek le Rat, who began working in 1981, which could make him at least ten years older.
The only clue until now has been a photograph taken in Jamaica 11 years ago of a man with a bag of spray cans and a stencil by his feet, who people say is Gunningham.
Banksy has admitted he disguises himself when in public and claims it is much easier and quicker to install works himself.
Appearances in public, or on film, have also been in disguise or with his face covered. Banksy says he must remain anonymous because of the often illegal nature of his art.
Robin Gunningham, who is thought to be in his late 30s or early 40s, remains the man most believed to be Banksy, although only a handful of the artist’s friends know his true identity.
He was educated at the £9,240-a-year Bristol Cathedral School, which shocked some of the artist’s fans who were fond of their hero’s ‘anti-establishment’ stance.
Is it him? Massive Attack star Robert Del Naja, pictured arriving at Banksy’s Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare, has also been accused of being the guerrilla graffiti star
Banksy has become renowned for his use of stencils to spray illegal images on public walls. Some councils and businesses have begun to protect his creations and his works have been sold to celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Rumours have persisted that the artist is called Robin Banks, that he is from Bristol, and that his parents think he is a painter and decorator.
Gunningham’s former school friend Scott Nurse said in 2011: ‘He was one of three people in my year who were extremely talented at art. I am not at all surprised if he is Banksy.’
Records reveal Gunningham once lived with artist Luke Egan, who later exhibited with Banksy. Mr Egan initially denied knowing Gunningham but later admitted he had lived with him.
Around 2000, when Banksy moved to London, Gunningham relocated to a flat in Hackney. A number of Banksy’s most famous works have appeared nearby. At that time Gunningham lived with Jamie Eastman, who worked for the Hombre record label – which has used illustrations by Banksy.
Mr Gunningham’s own parents have denied the artist was their son, although when his mother Pamela was shown the picture by the Mail on Sunday four years ago she initially denied she even had a son, let alone one called Robin, according to the paper.
But in 2016 a member of Massive Attack was named as the artist.
Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja, the founding member of the Bristol band, has been accused of being the guerrilla graffiti star because art keeps appearing near their gigs.
Investigative journalist Craig Williams, 31, claims the artist could be Mr Del Naja, or perhaps a team of people led by him and linked to Massive Attack who combine their concerts with graffiti.
Mr Williams has plotted Banksy murals around the world and said that on at least six occasions more than a dozen appeared shortly before or after Massive Attack gigs in the same cities over the past 12 years.
3D was a graffiti artist in the 1980s and has admitted he is friends with Banksy – but the journalist’s new research concludes he may be the artist himself. His band, famous for songs Tear Drop and Unfinished Sympathy, has made millions while Banksy’s art sells for at least £500,000 a piece.
Mr Williams said it has been the common conception was that the artist was ‘plain old public school boy Robin Gunningham’. He said: ‘But what if Banksy isn’t the one person everyone thinks he is. What if Banksy is a group of people who have stencilling different locations both at home and abroad? Such a rich body of work done over a decade, across the globe, may allow for the suggestion.
‘A rumour exists from 2010 that his work that went up around North America was his work but were not necessarily painted by him, but rather by a street team that happened to be following the Massive Attack tour. And on analysis of his North American work, this makes perfect sense.’