Cleaners paint over priceless art

CANBERRA Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:45am EDT

1 of 4. A street artist works near Hosier Lane, that contained a street art stencil by British graffiti artist Bansky, in central Melbourne April 28, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian council is rueing a decision to send street cleaners into a Melbourne lane after they painted over a priceless stencil of a rat by the celebrated British graffiti artist Banksy.

Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley last week sent a clean-up team into Hosier Lane, renowned internationally for its colorful street art, to clean up garbage in the graffiti-lined passage after local residents complained.

But the request went awry when the cleaners painted over a Banksy stencil of a rat hanging underneath a parachute and adorning the wall of an old council building. "Unfortunately the contractors were not made aware by us that that was an important piece. It is the nature of graffiti art. It's very vulnerable to other people's work," Council chief executive Kathy Alexander told local radio.

The reclusive Banksy, who is regarded as one of the world's top street artists, painted several stencils in Melbourne during a 2003 visit. His satirical and distinctive art is often directed at anti-war, cultural and anti-capitalist themes.

Banksy in 2005 painted nine images on Israel's West Bank barrier, including a ladder going over the wall and an image of children breaking through to a tropical island.

In 2008, a London wall bearing one of his stencils was said to have sold on eBay for almost $500,000.

It is not the first time Banksy's art has been fouled in Melbourne. Vandals created another outcry in 2008 when they poured paint over the artist's stencil of a diver in an old-fashioned helmet and wearing a trenchcoat.

That work was afterwards protected by a sheet of clear perspex, although vandals struck again and poured silver paint behind the barrier, tagging it with the words "Banksy woz ere."

Alexander said the city council would rush through retrospective permits to protect other famous or significant artworks in Australia's second-largest city.

"In hindsight, we should have acted sooner to formally approve and protect all known Banksy works," she said.

(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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Comments (5)
peoplewatcher wrote:
one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Maybe the Deputy Lord Mayor should take more care next time.

Apr 28, 2010 1:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
snapperearl wrote:
A STENCIL of a RAT? C’mon! how priceless could that be?
Get the old stencil out and spray another if you have to. Most people think graffiti is junk.

Apr 29, 2010 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Bjimmer wrote:
Priceless stencil of a rat by a graffiti artist, Eh?

Have we really sunk that low?

Well, I guess that I had better get busy protecting the priceless piles of dog poop my dog keeps leaving in my yard.

As a way of thanking you all for alerting me to the declining state of the world, send me your shipping address and I will ship you a pound of my dogs priceless poop for your admiration, future wealth and olefactory titilation.
Act now, before the price goes to $1,000,000/pound for his breathtaking works of fine art.

Apr 29, 2010 5:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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