Transport for London (TfL) has removed Banksy’s new coronavirus-themed artwork from a London Underground carriage.
The Bristol artist uploaded footage captioned ”If you don’t mask – you don’t get” to social media on Tuesday afternoon, showing him spray-painting a Circle line train with stencilled depictions of rats.
One creature appeared to be sneezing pale blue droplets of virus across a carriage window, while one struggled under a face mask and another used the protective gear as a parachute.
Hours later, TfL confirmed that the artwork was removed “some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy”, but said it would welcome Banksy to recreate his message “in a suitable location”.
“We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing,” a TfL spokesperson said.
“In this particular case, the work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy.
“We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.”
The anonymous street artist posted the footage to Instagram as health secretary Matt Hancock announced a long-awaited change to the government’s rules on face coverings, making them mandatory in English shops from 24 July. Their usage has been decreed on public transport since 15 June.
The video begins with a laptop playing footage showing the London Underground being deep cleaned in May.
Banksy – clad in a white boiler suit, mask, goggles, blue gloves and an orange hi-viz jacket with the message “stay safe” printed on it – climbs on board a train posing as a TfL worker.
The video shows him ushering a masked passenger to move back, before stencilling various rats across the carriage.
It closes with a message sprayed on the wall of a Tube station reading “I get lockdown” with the doors of the Tube carriage closing to reveal the message, “but I get up again”, as Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” plays in the background.
His work was well-received on social media, with acclaimed Portuguese street artist, Vhils, writing: “Back to Basics”, with three fire emojis, and British artist Paul Jackson replying: “Awesome as always.”
It is one of a number of artworks he has created during the coronavirus lockdown.
In April, he created a series of rats causing mayhem in his bathroom and posted the caption: “My wife hates it when I work from home.”
Later that month, a large face mask was placed on his world-famous piece The Girl With The Pierced Eardrum on Bristol harbourside. In May, an artwork entitled Game Changer, showing an NHS nurse as a superhero toy, went on display at Southampton General Hospital.
In June, Banksy posted a piece inspired by Black Lives Matter with a caption, part of which read: “People of colour are being failed by the system.”
The following day, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled by protesters in Bristol and thrown into the harbour during a Black Lives Matter march.
Banksy posted a sketch showing his idea for the empty plinth – retrieving the statue from the water, putting it back on the plinth with cables around its neck and life-size bronze statues of protesters pulling it down, ending the caption by by stating: “A famous day commemorated.”
Additional reporting by PA
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