The Metropolitan Police is investigating the brazen theft of a new Banksy artwork valued between £250,000 – £500,000 from a south London street. A man in his 20s was arrested on Saturday over the offences. He has been bailed pending further inquiries. A second man has now been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage. The road sign unveiled on Friday in Commercial Way, Peckham, was thought to be an anti-war statement by the elusive street artist.
The stolen work depicts three military drones on a traffic stop sign. The incident occurred just hours after the local council confirmed the piece’s authenticity via the official Banksy Instagram account. The stop sign was removed by two men wielding bolt cutters while standing on a Lime bike, leaving a crowd of outraged onlookers in disbelief.
Southwark Council’s deputy leader voiced the community’s shock and disappointment at the theft of the Banksy artwork, expressing a strong desire to reclaim the piece that legally belongs to the local council. These criminals will be caught and prosecuted, an official stated.
The removal of the artwork has been met with widespread disapproval from the community as well as art enthusiasts from around the world. Initially, the police held off on investigating until an official complaint was made from the council, but now a formal request is expected to prompt an inquiry. The thieves were caught on camera, and several people have come forward to identify the culprits. The resale of an artwork of this value would be difficult as it would not be accepted by Pest Control Banksy’s authentication board.
The stolen piece, strategically placed at the Southampton Way and Commercial Way intersection in Peckham, was featured on Banksy’s Instagram without any accompanying caption. The artist is well-known for his socio-political commentary.
Banksy has previously addressed Israel’s relations with Palestine in his Walled Off installation in 2017. The Walled Off Hotel, nestled in the heart of Bethlehem near the controversial West Bank barrier, stands as a testament to art’s power to transcend boundaries. This unique establishment/artwork, opened by the elusive street artist, offered guests an immersive experience blending art, politics, and hospitality.
Situated just feet from the towering concrete wall separating Israel and the West Bank, the Walled Off Hotel boasted an unconventional fusion of art gallery and accommodation. The hotel’s interior was adorned with Banksy’s politically charged artworks, providing guests with an up-close encounter with the artist’s thought-provoking pieces.
Each room in the Walled Off Hotel was a canvas, with thematic decor that delves into the complexities of the region’s history and conflicts. From rooms featuring artwork depicting angelic figures to those adorned with militarised cherubs, the spaces within the hotel encapsulate Banksy’s signature blend of satire and social commentary.
The hotel’s crowning jewel was arguably the Presidential Suite, offering a bird’s-eye view of the separation barrier through its windows. The suite’s decor was a visual narrative, combining luxury with the harsh realities of life in the region.
Beyond its artistic significance, the Walled Off Hotel served as a platform for dialogue. The on-site museum provided historical context, shedding light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the impact of the barrier on local communities. The Walled Off Hotel thus transcended its role as a mere artwork, becoming a hub for reflection and discourse.
Banksy’s creation invited guests to confront uncomfortable truths while immersing themselves in a space that challenged conventional norms.
The Walled Off Hotel was a testament to the artist’s commitment to using his craft to provoke thought, spark conversations, and leave an indelible mark on the intersections of art and activism.
Witnesses described the audacious theft in Peckham yesterday, recounting how the man, assisted by another, forcefully took down the sign amid onlookers’ shouts and honking car horns. Banksy’s recent installations showcase his ongoing engagement with current events, from the pandemic to the conflict in Ukraine. Banksy’s impact on public discourse through his unconventional art remains undeniable despite this setback.