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Anti-graffiti crew accidentally paints over Banksy art in CBD

  • Estelle Paterson and Wendy McDougall look up to where Banksy's stencil used to sit. Picture: Eugene Hyland

    Estelle Paterson and Wendy McDougall look up to where Banksy's stencil used to sit. Picture: Eugene Hyland

  • Hosier Lane in the CBD. Picture: Herald Sun

    Hosier Lane in the CBD. Picture: Herald Sun

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UPDATE 3.20pm: MELBOURNE Council has admitted painting over a piece of CBD street art by world-famous stencil guru Banksy.

A council anti-graffiti crew painted over the city’s last remaining work by the enigmatic British artist.

The image of a rat descending in a parachute adorned the wall of an old council building behind the Forum in Hosier Lane.

Council chief executive Kathy Alexander this afternoon confirmed the council had mistakenly ordered an external contractor to paint over the work.

“The removal of the rat stencil was not an error on the cleaners’ behalf as they were acting under instruction to clean all unapproved areas and were not made aware of the significance of the artwork,” Ms Alexander said.

She said cleaning contractors had been instructed to clean the wall as part of their regular street cleaning schedule following “amenity issues” raised by residents to councillors. There were a number of graffiti tags near the rat stencil.

The council would now rush through retrospective permits for to protect other “famous or significant artworks” in the city, she said.

“It is very unfortunate that that this Banksy artwork has now been removed,” she said.

Vandals created a public outcry in 2008 when they poured paint over another iconic Banksy stencil depicting an old-fashioned diver wearing a trenchcoat on the corner of Swanston St and Flinders Lane.

In that same year, another Banksy artwork stencilled onto a London wall sold for $472,528.

“In hindsight, we should have acted sooner to formally approve and protect all known Banksy works,” Ms Alexander said.

Melbourne Council has introduced a permit system that can give building owners permission to display graffiti works.

But Ms Alexander said the rat stencil was not on one of five legal street art sites in Hosier Lane.

“It was by exception that the rat stencil had been allowed to remain in Hosier Lane on an unapproved site,” she said.

“We allowed it to stay there because we were aware it was believed to be Banksy’s work.

“As the street art capital of Australia, we are aware of the popularity of Banksy’s works and have made exceptions to preserve them in the past.”

Hugh Thorne, of Hosier Lane cocktail bar Misty Place, said it was a shame the laneway had lost the little known work by the famous artist.

“The council is trying to clean up all of the tagging in the city and they’re trying to differentiate between tagging and street art and I guess in this case they just couldn’t,” Mr Thorne said.

“At the end of the day, if they really want to get an art restorer in and spend thousands of dollars they could bring it back.”

delortia writes:
Posted on 29 Apr 10 at 12:53am

i wish these council workers would come to nsw and teach our local councils how to get rid of this vandalisim . our town would be much cleaner and respectable. Maybe even send your empolyment agencies to, to give our idiot vandals a hand to get a job were they can pay taxes and live like the rest of us.

Faith writes:
Posted on 28 Apr 10 at 05:55pm

I think it’s stupid that the council have a right to decide what gets painted over and where. My friends actually do amazing graffiti art, and spend time doing it, and they were being paid to do this amazing piece on the wall of someone’s house - by the owner - and the council went over it without consultation of the owner or whether it was being approved. The council should at least leave art that is significant. Or start to get people to have permits so that they can have their real art pieces in certain places. Like Kerry said, it’s time the council took this art form seriously.

Jean Baker writes:
Posted on 28 Apr 10 at 09:18am

Hamish. In Sydney, Banksy’s ‘little diver’ on the whole foods wall Enmore has been buffed with silver paint and text - on Flickr.com Peter John Chen’s photostream: ‘Banksy woz ere but now invisible Lisa Marie Smith BNE I like it’ and another on top of it titled ‘the horse’s hoof (poof)’, and name of (Melbourne fugitive) Lisa Marie Smith Flickr tagged ‘nutbar (the invisible man)’.

minor lapse writes:
Posted on 27 Apr 10 at 09:38pm

What make’s Banksy art above others?  He did the same, graffiti over others graffiti in is wallpaper;
http://www.fernandaweber.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/banksy_wallpaper_hanging.jpg

See the before and after at his own site;
http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/horizontal_1.htm
And whoever said that art should be timeless and forever!
We are trying to hold onto the past too much… and not moving forward to the future, what happens when your canvas becomes full.

Callum writes:
Posted on 27 Apr 10 at 08:36pm

People need to get a grip when it comes to graffiti, while Banksy stencils are important, its only because he has world wide fame ($) that the piece is now considered so. While I do appreciate his work, I’m more disgusted on a regular basis on the amount of artwork painted over by Australian artists, whether street artists or graffiti writers, to a entire subculture of artists (tax payers/residents in their own right) also this art means the world to them. Trying to protect a Banksy piece is ridiculous when there’s far more significant pieces from local artists who’s blood, sweat, tears and lives have been dedicated to making Melbourne more colourful and intern gentrifying suburbs in particular dirty laneways and bringing in tourists.
I actually prefer the opinions of closed minded types who want the whole city cleaned than people who think they are able to differentiate between tags, pieces, stencils etc. They are all the same thing whether you like it or not, tagging is the most important element to graffiti, whether you band wagon art critics like it or not.

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