Banksy unveils Valentine’s Day mural

Banksy unveils Valentine’s Day mural

Banksy unveils Valentine’s Day mural

British street artist Banksy marked Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 with an inimitable statement about violence against women but local politicians saw only a nuisance.

A Banksy mural appeared in Margate in southeast England, depicting a 1950s-style housewife with a swollen eye and a missing tooth seemingly shoving her male partner into a real chest freezer.

“Certainly, we will be looking at how we can protect this and preserve it because we’re really proud to have it here,” Margate mayor Heather Keen told AFP.

But minutes later, council workers turned up to throw the freezer into a van, despite protests from locals taking pictures of the mural, at the end of a terrace of houses in a rundown part of the seaside town.

Thanet District Council, which administers Margate, said the freezer was removed “on the grounds of safety as it was on public land.”

“The fridge freezer is now in storage and will be returned once it has been made safe to the public,” the council said in a statement, adding it would discuss preserving the artwork with the owner of the house.

The elusive Banksy, whose true identity remains unconfirmed, posted three images of the work, which he entitled “Valentine’s Day Mascara,”v on his Instagram account.

Two of the images were close-ups showing the woman, wearing a blue pinafore and yellow washing-up gloves, smiling but seemingly with a battered face.

The removal of the freezer prompted bemusement - and even conspiracy theories - among bystanders.

“People were sort of like, ‘Stop, stop, you know, this is a Banksy, right?’” local resident Laura Holden, 35, told AFP. “And they [the workers] were like, ‘Yeah, no, we’ve got permission to take everything away’,” she said.

“It felt like it was part of the piece, and perhaps Banksy intended that all along, because we all know how hard it is to get Thanet District Council to come and collect our rubbish.”

From Bristol to Borodianka

Others commended the apparent theme of the now-altered work. “I think it’s amazing,” said Amanda Barden, 56.

“It’s a real topic that people can talk about, domestic abuse. I think the reference to Valentine’s Day as well, it’s bringing people in, it’s going to open up that dialogue.”

Banksy, known to hail from Bristol in southwest England, has been busy producing and selling dozens of limited-edition screen prints to raise funds to support civilians affected by the war in Ukraine.

The 50 prints, which show a mouse sliding down the side of a box with “FRAGILE” printed on it, were sold in December for £5,000 ($6,100) each, through the charity Legacy of War Foundation.

Their online auction attracted thousands of “hostile” web attacks launched from Russian internet addresses, the charity said at the time.

The artist also confirmed last month that he was behind seven murals that appeared on destroyed buildings around Kiev last year.

Belying its origins on the streets of Bristol in the 1990s, Banksy art now commands serious money.

A version of his iconic “Girl with Balloon” sold at auction for just over £1 million in 2018 - only to start self-destructing due to a shredder hidden by Banksy in the frame.

The renamed “Love is in the Bin” then sold for a staggering £18.6 million in 2021, a record for a Banksy.