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Label: mural

Wednesday 31st August 2016Spy Booth Mural Destroyed in Cheltenham

Graffiti art automatically comes with an inherent kind of risk. Not only is there the fact that the process is generally regarded as illegal, regardless of how beautiful the resulting work is, but there is the risk that the piece itself won't survive. Even fame and recognition doesn't seem to be a guarantee against these dangers, as the famous street artist Banksy discovered recently.

One of his most famous pieces is located in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, painted on a the side of a house surrounding a telephone booth. Entitled Spy Booth, it's a critique of the recent revelations of extensive government surveillance and spying that have rocked the world over the last few years.

The choice of location was no accident, as the GCHQ building is nearby, the headquarters of the British government surveillance system. But someone was clearly asleep at the switch when it came time to protect one of Banksy's most famous pieces, for the piece has been removed from its location and destroyed thanks to an unfortunate accident involving an urgent home repair.

Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time Spy Booth has had some trouble. It has suffered numerous vandalism issues, which fortunately were repaired successfully. After the latest danger, the Cheltenham Borough Council decided to grant it retrospective planning consent in 2015, which establishes it as a protected work. In theory, this should make it more difficult to remove - but it can't protect it against accidents.

The council's enforcement manager, Mark Nelson, explains: "We have endeavoured to protect the Banksy as much as possible and to this end the notice required the owner to have due regard for the mural whilst works were being undertaken. We were aware of loose render on that part of the building but the extent and how far it would affect the mural was unknown until work progressed. We would advise anyone against removing any further pieces from the location as this may be classed as a criminal offence."

David Possee, the owner of the house, had reportedly been offered upwards of a million pounds for the artwork, which he declined. Hopefully, this piece can be restored by the council or by Banksy himself, but perhaps it should be regarded as a lesson in the impermanence of the street art medium.

Posted on August 31st 2016 on 10:03pm
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