Vandals Completely Deface Banksy’s ‘Spy Booth’

Banksy, Spy Booth (2014), now vandalized. Photo: via Western Daily Press.

Banksy’s embattled Cheltenham mural, Spy Booth, which locals were fighting to keep in situ, has been severely vandalized, reports the BBC.

The painting, which first appeared in April, is of three spies in trench coats wielding old-school surveillance gear. The work is cleverly situated behind a phone booth, suggesting that the country’s intelligence headquarters, the nearby GCHQ, is spying on British citizens.

When Banksy acknowledged that he had created the work, the owners of the home on which it was painted quickly moved to sell it, prompting outrage from the community, which launched a campaign to save the mural. Their efforts were bolstered by the building’s Grade II heritage designation, and contentions that the wall the painting was on belonged to the government (see artnet News report).

Salvation, however, came in the form of millionaire Hekmat Kaveh, according to Western Press Daily. Mere hours before vandals struck, he had agreed to purchase the home, and by extension Spy Booth, saving it for the local community.

Earlier this week, artnet News reported that someone had scratched a name into one of the three figures’ sunglasses and that the damage, while subtle, could affect the work’s value. The latest offense is much worse, as someone has written in silver scrawl all over the three spies.

“It’s completely ruined. It’s awful,” lamented local Jenny Lyon in an interview with the BBC. “People have worked so hard to keep it here and then somebody overnight has ruined it for everybody.”

All is not lost, however: “I believe the original paint had some anti-graffiti products in it and also an anti-graffiti product was put over the top of it. I am confident that it will come off,” Kaveh told the BBC.

The police are investigating the incident, but in the meantime, experts are being called in to perform the clean-up (concerned locals, who initially tried their hands at the task, have been told to stand down). Assuming the restoration is successful, the town plans to place acrylic glass in front of the painting moving forward.

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