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New Banksy tree mural in London has been defaced

On Wednesday, people looked at a Banksy mural in London which has been defaced with white paint. The artwork first appeared overnight on Sunday and was confirmed to be Banksy's work on Monday.
Victoria Jones
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PA Images via Getty Images
On Wednesday, people looked at a Banksy mural in London which has been defaced with white paint. The artwork first appeared overnight on Sunday and was confirmed to be Banksy's work on Monday.

Updated March 20, 2024 at 10:04 AM ET

This story has been updated on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. EDT.

A recently unveiled mural by the street artist Banksy has been vandalized, just two days after its initial appearance. The piece, which was painted on the side of a vacant building in a densely populated north London neighborhood, artistically re-foliated a severely pruned tree in the Islington North area. By Wednesday, the mural was defaced with white paint, despite fencing having been installed since the artwork was made.

Banksy confirmed the authenticity of a new mural on Monday. In a "before" photo posted on Banksy's account, the denuded cherry tree, with most of its branches sawed off, stands before a rather sad building wall, its pale paint peeling away. Bright green paint has been sprayed on that same wall just behind the cut-back tree and its bare, stumpy limbs. (The local authority, Islington Council, told the BBC that the tree was in declining health and damaged by fungi.)

The green, dripped paint on the Banksy mural suggests tree foliage, while at the lower left side a stencil of a person holding a paint sprayer gazes upwards, seemingly toward the tree. Local observers have noted that the green paint in the Banksy mural replicates the color of local street signs posted by Islington Council.

A new Banksy artwork near Finsbury Park in north London shows a stencil of a person having spray painted tree foliage onto a wall behind a leafless tree.
Adrian Dennis / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A new Banksy artwork near Finsbury Park in north London shows a stencil of a person having spray painted tree foliage onto a wall behind a leafless tree.

The mural appears to have gone up on Sunday; on Monday, Banksy posted before-and-after images of the tree and the wall. The building's owner told the BBC that the building is currently vacant and for rent, but that he plans to keep the mural up.

For this piece, the tree itself is integral to the mural's design and meaning — and therefore perhaps harder, and less attractive, to steal.

The last art known to have been created by Banksy — a stop sign with three military drones flying across it, which was widely interpreted as an anti-war piece — was stolen from its location in south London in December within hours of it being unveiled and confirmed as an authentic Banksy work. Two men were arrested for that theft, but are currently out on bail.

Last year, another Banksy work sold for more than $2 million at auction; perhaps most famously, Banksy's work Love is in the Bin sold for $25.4 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2021— three years after it had been partially shredded, on purpose, just after its sale for $1.4 million just after the auction had concluded, thanks to a shredder hidden within its frame.

The former leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, told the PA news agency he is "delighted" to see the new mural in the neighborhood, for which he has served as a member of parliament for more than 40 years. Corbyn said Islington North needs more greenery.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.