Banksy’s Big Brexit Mural, Painted on a Crumbling Building in Dover, Is Demolished

The building has been flattened to make way for redevelopment.

A recently painted mural by British graffiti artist Banksy, depicting a workman chipping away at one of the stars on a European Union (EU) themed flag, is pictured in Dover, south east England on May 8, 2017. Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images.

A mural by the anonymous street artist Banksy critical of Brexit has officially been demolished along with the crumbling building on which it was painted. Officials have now promised to attempt to salvage at least some of the remains.

The three-story painting appeared on the side of a building in Dover in the U.K. in 2017, a year after the landmark referendum that inspired it. In it, a worker is pictured standing on a latter and chiseling off one of the stars on the E.U. flag. At the time, its value was assessed by Banksy collector John Brandler at £1 million ($1.2 million).

In 2019, scaffolding was installed in front of the building and it was whitewashed, but some of the elements were later restored. It had also previously been vandalized. Dover acquired the land and some adjacent properties in 2022 but it was later estimated that retaining the mural would have cost Dover taxpayers about £2–4 million ($2.5–5 million).

“DDS Demolition is attempting to see if the Banksy artwork can be conserved in any way. There is no certainty that this will be successful given the fact that the artwork was painted over and the poor state of the render,” the company said in an emailed statement prepared by the Dover council confirming the demolition.

“Contractors have been successful in removing stars and a section of the man and ladder intact. Prior to authorizing the demolition, and having taken professional conservation advice, DDC determined that the Banksy could not be viably conserved without considerable costs to local taxpayers, even if it were technically possible.”

The Dover council said that DDS is taking on the costs and risks of attempting to recover the Banksy, and that it would be the property of the demolition company if the attempts are successful in line with the terms of the contract which, as is standard practice with demolition projects, gives them the ownership of any salvageable materials from the buildings.

“Given the detailed conservation process that needs to take place, it is likely to be some time before DDS Demolition will know if their attempts to conserve any elements of the Banksy have been successful,” the Dover council said in the statement. “We are in discussions with DDS Demolition as to how any elements of the conserved Banksy could be put on display locally.”

In additional remarks, a DDS spokesperson said neither the company nor the art restorer they have tapped for the project is able to comment as he is still assessing the potential for restoration. Still, “nothing is confirmed as unsalvageable as yet.” The debris was handed over to the restorer just last week.\

DDS considered the demolition as “salvage operation” as opposed to a standard demolition project to try to preserve the artwork, which added a “long and careful process” to take down the building—much of the work being done by hand rather than machine.

“We will be in touch again soon to share the full story, once we have news of whether restoration of all or any parts of the piece is possible. Hopefully it will suffice to say for now, that DDS are making every effort to salvage the artwork for the community to enjoy,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Dover District Council member Kevin Mills told The Sun tabloid that “the whole thing can’t be saved anyway. It was a very old building.” He suggested tha an art restorer might be able to salvage the yellow stars of the E.U. flag and the stencil of the man on the stepladder, but that the blue coloring of the flag—the bulk of the footprint of the painting—could not be saved.

“What we’ve made sure is the council taxpayer isn’t given a bill to try to maintain something we might not even be able to maintain or even salvage to some extent,” he said. “We’ve got digital photographs so it’s possible to duplicate something.”

Artnet News has reached out to Mills for more information but did not hear back by press time.

The mural was on one of three “increasingly dilapidated and dangerous” buildings the Dover council announced would be demolished earlier this year as part of a plan to redevelop the Bench Street site. The scheme includes building a creative center, an education campus, business, center, and a park. At the time, the city council said it had appointed the Madrid-based Factum Arte to “scan and preserve” the Banksy so it could be recreated digitally or even physically in the future.

“In collaboration with Dover District Council, in March 2023 a team from Factum Foundation was tasked to record the shape and surface of the painted over wall in high-resolution, using LiDAR and photogrammetry, in order to preserve the digital data of the painted wall, which will become part of the town’s historical records in addition to the countless pictures taken of the work before its disappearance,” Factum Arte said in an announcement at the time.

The press release appears to have since been deleted from the organization’s website was retrieved through a Google cache. It was not immediately clear why the announcement has been removed.

“The high-resolution data can now be used to recreate the artwork in digital or even physical form as a facsimile, in a new location around the town or elsewhere, subject to Banksy’s approval,” the Factum Arte statement had said.

Artnet News has also reached out to Banksy’s authenticating body Pest Control for comment regarding the archive of his work.


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