Banksy Strikes Again in London & Urges Everyone to Wear Masks

The per­son who may or may not be Banksy is at it again, this time sten­cil­ing up a Lon­don Under­ground car­riage with his famil­iar rat char­ac­ters. Rats know a thing or two about spread­ing dis­ease but this time they are here to insist that the pub­lic wear a mask. (Ear­li­er in April they appeared in the artist’s own bath­room.)

As post­ed on Banksy’s social media feeds on Tues­day we can see the artist get kit­ted up like one of the Underground’s “deep cleaners”—-a pro­tec­tive face mask, gog­gles, blue gloves, white Tyvek body­suit, and orange safe­ty vest—and enter a car­riage with an exter­mi­na­tor’s spray can­is­ter filled with light blue paint. He also has some of his sten­cils ready to go. “If you don’t mask, you don’t get” reads the video’s cap­tion.

Cur­rent­ly all pas­sen­gers must wear masks on the Lon­don Under­ground, and over the last month Trans­port for Lon­don has report­ed a 90% com­pli­ance rate (take note, Amer­i­ca!). Work­ers have been san­i­tiz­ing sta­tions and trains more, and even installing UV light tech­nol­o­gy to bat­tle the virus.

Banksy’s rats are shown using masks as para­chutes, car­ry­ing bot­tles of hand san­i­tiz­er, and along one wall sneez­ing par­ti­cles across the win­dow, paint­ed using the can­is­ter spray noz­zle. Ban­sky tags the back wall with his name, urges a pas­sen­ger to stay back while he works, and then gets off at a stop. He’s left one final mes­sage: “I get lock­down” (paint­ed on a sta­tion wall) “but I get up again” (on the clos­ing doors). The line is a nod to Chumbawumba’s inescapable 1997 anthem “Tubthump­ing.”

Banksy might be a rebel­lious street artist, but he’s not an idiot: wear­ing masks is imper­a­tive.

The art­work didn’t last long, as Trans­port of Lon­don has strict poli­cies against graf­fi­ti. So few pas­sen­gers even got to expe­ri­ence the art before it was scrubbed by work­ers, long before any­body would have iden­ti­fied it as a Banksy work.

“When we saw the video, we start­ed to look into it and spoke to the clean­ers,” a Lon­don Trans­port source told the New York Post. “It start­ed to emerge that they had noticed some sort of ‘rat thing’ a few days ago and cleaned it off, as they should. It rather changes the aspect for any­one seek­ing to go down the route of accus­ing us of cul­tur­al van­dal­ism.”

The Post even sug­gest­ed that the car­riage could have been removed and then sold as a com­plete art work in itself and raised mon­ey for char­i­ty. (They quote an art bro­ker who val­ues it at $7.5 mil­lion. But where would you hang it? In your pri­vate air­plane hang­er?)

Any­way, like a lot of Banksy work, it appeared, it was doc­u­ment­ed, and it was gone. Trans­port of Lon­don did men­tion that they were open to Banksy cre­at­ing some­thing else at a “suit­able loca­tion,” but then again, that’s not how the artist rolls. Just keep your eyes open, folks, and look out for rats.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behind the Banksy Stunt: An In-Depth Break­down of the Artist’s Self-Shred­ding Paint­ing

Banksy Strikes Again in Venice

Banksy Paints a Grim Hol­i­day Mur­al: Season’s Greet­ings to All

The Genius of Har­ry Beck’s 1933 Lon­don Tube Map–and How It Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Sub­way Map Design Every­where

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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