Banksy’s Spy Booth Defaced
Spy Booth a Banksy mural in Cheltenham, England, has been defaced. An action which has sparked the anger of locals. The mural already had the residents in the western England town rallying to put a preservation campaign in the works. Now that it has been vandalized, a local group is struggling to save the artwork. The mural targeted the nature of government surveillance and has been a celebrated part of the community for the last couple of months since it arrived.
The mural appeared, in true Banksy style, overnight on Sunday April 13. Those locals who were paying attention to goings on at the time recalled a large group of men packing up a tarpaulin and driving off in a white van shortly before it was discovered.
Spy Booth was crafted on a wall on Fairview Road and depicted three government agency spies leaning in on a phone box as if listening to the a conversation. The spooks were clad in 1950’s style trench coats and hats. Cheltenham is the home of the spy agency GCHQ, which added to the humor and region-specific originality of the piece.
The owner of the building tried to have it removed shortly after it appeared and in response to this a band of locals got together with the specific mission of saving the work of art. There was speculation that another local business owner, Hekmat Kavah would buy the wall-work and preserve it.
Banksy is a very celebrated artist from Bristol in England, in June he officially confirmed that he was the creator of Spy Booth as suspected. This conformation made local residents excited and proud of the piece, but protecting it from damage has proved to be an onerous task.
Unfortunately, on Friday, Spy Booth was found to be covered in messy grey and red graffiti. The piece had already been treated with anti-graffiti paint, and according to local campaigner, Angela De Souza, the residents are now facing what can only be described as a “race against time” as they try to save the piece from long-term damage. De Souza is part of an organization called Save The Banksy, which is a cluster of local business owners that believe the artist’s work is worthy of preservation.
Banksy works fetch in the region of $1.8 million in auction, more recently, buildings and walls with the artwork on have been stripped as people try to cash in on the artist’s popularity. Save The Banksy had been working on raising money so that they could buy the piece themselves and keep it safe, they were relieved when local millionaire Kavah announced he intended to purchase and preserve the piece.
De Souza describes the upset that the local residents of Cheltenham have felt since Banksy’s Spy Booth was defaced. She explains that after they were sure that the piece had been sold to Kavah to be preserved there was a feeling of delight, which has now been replaced with devastation.
Martin Burnett, a local builder has expressed outrage at the incident. He believes that the wall art should have been removed from the building sooner and preserved in a museum so that other people could enjoy it also. He referred to whoever wrote over the top of Banksy’s Spy Booth as “an idiot.”
Gloucestershire police have made an appeal for anyone with any information to contact them. Cheltenham police officers are currently at the scene and are inspecting the local area for clues as to who might have defaced Banksy’s Spy Booth.
By Tabitha Farrar