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New Banksy artwork stolen less than one hour after artist announces arrival

Two men were photographed pinching the piece in plain sight

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 22 December 2023 14:18 GMT
Banksy graffiti in Gaza

Banksy‘s latest installation has been stolen – less than an hour after the enigmatic artist announced its arrival in south London.

The new piece, which seemingly calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, came in the form of a “Stop” traffic sign emblazoned with war planes. It was situated on Commercial Way in Peckham until the theft.

Less than one hour after its arrival, photographers captured images of two anonymous men removing the piece of art from its road sign location. One stood on a rented electric Lime Bike to get to the sign, while the other held it in place.

Earlier, enigmatic artist Banksy shared the artwork on his social media pages with no explanation.

While currently unconfirmed, the artwork, whose whereabouts remain unknown, was believed to be a reference to Israel’s ongoing war on Hamas.

In 2015, Banksy created street art in Gaza, in what was deemed one of his most provocative political projects to date. The artist’s graffiti stencils were added to concrete rubble and, when he posted photographs of his work to his official website, he captioned his first stencil of a sad, crouching figure: “Bomb damage, Gaza City.”

In another caption, he wrote: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons – they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

Banksy began creating street art in the Nineties, but gained particular notoriety the following decade with his political artworks.

The artist’s latest work comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak piled pressure on Israel over the need for a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza, saying that “too many lives have been lost” in the bombardment of the territory.

Sunak’s demand followed comments from his former defence secretary Ben Wallace, who warned that Israel’s indiscriminate “killing rage” in Gaza risks fuelling the conflict “for another 50 years” and radicalising young Muslims across the world.

Man removed Banksy artwork less than an hour after it arrived (PA)

Wallace said Israel could lose moral and legal authority over its war on Hamas, which was in response to an attack inside Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 240 others taken hostage.

Banksy has installed some other pieces this year, including Valentine’s Day Mascara, a mural weighing 3.8 tonnes, which appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day.

The mural depicted a 1950s’ housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth, wearing an apron and yellow washing-up gloves, and throwing a man into a chest freezer.

In September, it was placed in the foyer of The Art of Banksy exhibition in Regent Street, central London, where it can be viewed for free.

The exhibition features pieces including Girl With Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper and also focuses on Banksy’s Dismaland, The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem and recent works acknowledging the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Banksy has unveiled a new art piece (Aaron Chown/PA)

An exhibition also opened at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) for a limited run and showcased 25 years of Banksy’s stencil graffiti.

The artist often refers to contemporary issues and in 2020 included messages about the pandemic in his work.

Transport for London (TfL) removed spray paint in a London Underground carriage due to what they called their “strict anti-graffiti policy”.

Additional reporting by Agencies

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