In a lamentable turn of events, a Banksy mural with an estimated value exceeding $1.2 million has met its demise as the building it graced was demolished. This iconic artwork, which emerged shortly after the contentious Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, has been a significant symbol in the coastal town of Dover since its appearance in 2017.
The mural, positioned on the Castle Amusements building, featured a depiction of a laborer chipping away at one of the 12 yellow stars adorning the blue European Union (EU) flag. Its creation was seen by many as a powerful commentary on the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Tragedy struck in 2019 when the mural vanished overnight, whitewashed and erased from view. Despite efforts to potentially restore the artwork, the building housing it has now been razed as part of a broader urban redevelopment project.
The newly conceived development, aptly named “The Bench,” will encompass cultural and community engagement spaces alongside residential units, as per local authorities.
Dover City Council (DDC) conveyed in a statement to CNN that prior to authorizing the demolition, they sought professional conservation counsel and determined that conserving the Banksy mural would entail exorbitant costs for local taxpayers, even if it were technically feasible. The council clarified that it was not involved in the initial creation or covering up of the mural.
Nevertheless, DDC’s chosen demolition contractor, DDS Demolition, is currently exploring the possibility of preserving the Banksy artwork. The spokesperson stated that there is no certainty due to the artwork’s previous whitewashing and the deteriorated state of the render. However, DDS Demolition has made progress in removing stars and a section of the man and ladder intact. If successful, the artwork would become the property of the demolition company, with all additional costs being borne by them.
A spokeswoman for the demolition firm conveyed via email to CNN that the retrieved pieces of the mural are currently undergoing assessment, and DDS Demolition is making every effort to salvage the artwork for the benefit of the community.
Notably, Banksy, the enigmatic artist whose true identity remains a closely guarded secret, has refrained from making any public comments regarding the demolition of his work. His creations, often found in public spaces, are renowned for their social and political commentary, making their preservation challenging and sometimes inviting theft or defacement.
One of Banksy’s most famous murals, “Spy booth,” portraying three secret agents surrounding a phone booth equipped with recording devices, met a similar fate in 2016. Additionally, earlier this year, an abandoned freezer that formed part of an artwork in the town of Margate was swiftly removed only hours after Banksy confirmed it as his creation.
In a particularly dramatic episode in 2018, the artist famously destroyed one of his own works just moments after it was auctioned for $1.4 million. The painting, titled “Girl with a Red Balloon,” passed through a concealed shredder, leaving both the buyer and the art world in astonishment.
The demolition of the Banksy mural in Dover marks the end of an era for a significant piece of contemporary art. While its physical presence may have been erased, the impact of Banksy’s work on the art world and the broader societal discourse continues to endure.