Man arrested after Banksy artwork ripped down from street

Entertainment

A man has been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after a new Banksy artwork was removed.

The elusive artist confirmed the work – a traffic stop sign featuring military drones – was his in a social media post shortly after midday on Friday.

Less than half an hour later, two men were pictured ripping down the sign on which the work was displayed at the intersection of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in Peckham, south London.

The removal was caught on video and several by-standers were heard remarking on what the men were doing at the time.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement today: “One man has been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage in connection with the incident. He remains in custody.”

The force earlier said it had been informed of the snatched sign on Friday, adding: “Our local authority partners were informed at the time and have since replaced the road sign to avoid endangering road users.

“We have since received a report of theft and enquiries are ongoing.”

The deputy Leader of Southwark Council, Jasmine Ali, said the artwork “should not have been removed”, adding everyone should enjoy “Banksy’s brilliant work”.

Banksy's new piece of art in Peckham
Image:
Banksy’s new piece of art in Peckham

In a statement issued shortly after the piece was removed, Ms Ali said: “Of course Banksy picked Peckham, it’s already on the map when it comes to art and is a hotbed for creativity.

“It should not have been removed and we’d like it back so everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work.

“We have reported the removal of our sign to the police to help get it back.”

In the photographs captured at the time, one man could be seen standing on a Lime bike while using bolt cutters to free the sign.

They were then pictured running down the street with the sign in hand.

A man who witnessed the removal said he “watched in awe” as a man “bashed it with his hands”.

A person removes the Banksy artwork

The witness, who wanted to be referred to only as Alex, had come to see the artwork after riding a Lime bike to the area.

Another man then used this Lime bike to stand on as he removed the art.

The 26-year-old told the PA news agency: “I opened Instagram and I saw it was posted four minutes before and I was about to go on my lunch break. There were about two people there when I got there. We were all sort of admiring it and taking pictures.

“This guy comes up and grabs it, we watched in awe as he bashed it. He put the Lime bike under the sign, stood on the Lime bike and tried to hit the sign, he hit it with his hands and it wasn’t going anywhere.”

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Bolt cutters used to remove the artwork
Image:
Bolt cutters used to remove the artwork

He added: “He fell off the Lime bike at one point. He disappeared and went away and about two minutes later he reappeared with bolt cutters and just sort of tried and tried and tried while everyone was watching.

“We said ‘what are you doing?’ but no one really knew what to do, we sort of just watched it happen. We were all a bit bemused; there was some honking of car horns.

“He ripped it off and ran across the road and ran away. He said nothing. He didn’t seem to care that much about the art itself.”

It is understood Banksy is not behind the removal.

It is not the first time a Banksy artwork has been removed this year.

A mural weighing 3.8 tonnes called Valentine’s Day Mascara appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day and was dismantled within hours of Banksy sharing a series of photos of it online.

It depicted a 1950s housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth having thrown a man into a chest freezer.

The artwork appeared to incorporate other objects including a broken garden chair, a frying pan and an empty beer bottle, which were removed.

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