Art or eyesore? Public asked if Banksy's mural should stay

The large graffiti image, depicting a woman in underwear, her jealous husband, and her naked lover dangling from a window ledge, would usually have been scrubbed off by council workers at the earliest opportunity.

This week in Bristol, however, the man responsible is Britain's most celebrated graffiti artist, Banksy, and the work was his latest offering to his native city, painted on the brickwork of the Brook Young People's Sexual Health Clinic.

The result has been a city-wide debate on the merits of the graffiti artist's work. The managers of the Brook clinic want it to stay. Bristol city council has now decided to consult the people. This week an online poll was launched as to whether it should stay or go.

The latest example of the controversial artist's "guerrilla graffiti" was painted in the dead of night using a ladder to reach more than 20ft off the ground.

Immediately, the Brook clinic's medical director, Dr Annie Evans, thanked the artist by e-mail and pledged to "look after" it. Ms Evans wrote: "The team at Brook Young People's Sexual Health Clinic are bouncing with joy.

"You've copied my consulting room window to create the scene! Did you realise how utterly appropriate your latest subject matter was, given what goes on in the building?

"Brook is one of the biggest providers of sexual health advice for young people in the UK ... and your stunning artwork is exactly what we needed to promote our service. Thanks a bunch and we will do our best to look after it!"

Ms Evans said Banksy had replied to her by saying "he hoped it wouldn't be removed straight away".

She added: "I replied saying they would bulldoze it over my dead body. We love it and really want it to stay. We are calling it the 'Brook Banksy'."

After receiving phone calls from the public, Bristol Council set up an online forum for residents to register their reactions.

Tamsin May, a council spokeswoman, said an initial response had been positive. She said: "It's quite a humorous piece and generally, the reaction has been very positive. So we are opening it up for public debate rather than going in there and scrubbing it off.''

An appeal to the public on the council's website reads: "A new Banksy has surfaced on the streets of Bristol. Some people feel that graffiti is a vibrant urban art form, others regard it as an eyesore that costs millions a year to remove and helps add to the rundown atmosphere of certain areas ... What do you think? Should Banksy be praised or prosecuted?"

Last year, Banksy courted controversy when he targeted a security wall in Israel, creating stencil sprays on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. He has also pinned his own works up at a number of high-profile art galleries across the world.

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