Banksy’s striking Valentine’s Day artwork has been dismantled for a second time in just one week over safety and preservation concerns. Margate council first stepped in only a few hours after the elusive artist had unveiled “Valentine’s day mascara” on social media.
The graffitied mural on the side of a house depicts a 1950s housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth shoving a man into a real chest freezer. Surrounding the freezer, Banksy scattered an assortment of ‘rubbish’ including a grimy saucepan, a broken garden chair, and empty beer bottles. Many believe the anonymous street artist is making a statement about male violence against women through the piece.
On the same day that Banksy posted an image of it on Instagram, the council quickly removed the installation of objects. A statement from Thanet District Council claimed they were confiscated “by council operatives on the grounds of safety as it was on public land.“
The resident of the property where Banksy painted the mural was “upset” by the actions of the council, stating: “it was part of the art, they should be very happy because Margate could get bigger attention, positive attention. Why did they move those parts? It’s just silly.”
Other critics also took to social media to condemn the swift removal of the artwork. “The alley, a public footpath that leads almost to where the Banksy art piece is, has been like this for weeks and weeks. It’s shocking what is in the pile,” said local resident Richard Llewellyn. “Yet the council can arrive as quick as anything to remove part of the artwork 200 metres away. Someone’s priorities a little wrong me thinks.“
But only two days after the council had returned the freezer, it was removed again. This time it has been put into storage for safe keeping by Red Eight Gallery, following approval from the property’s resident. Julian Usher, chief executive of the London-based gallery, explained that “the only reason we’re taking it away is purely from a security perspective. We can’t have 24-hour security guards standing there.” He continued: “whether we can find something just to replace it in the meantime, which doesn’t matter if it goes missing, that is what we’re still looking into.”
Perspex has also been added to the wall to protect the mural from potential vandals. Experts believe it could be worth a whopping £2 million if sold at auction, but only when reunited with the freezer.