Banksy’s new mural about domestic violence, Valentine’s Day Mascara, has been dismantled for a second time by local officials in a coastal British town over security and preservation concerns.
Located in Margate, the mural features a 1950s-style housewife with a swollen, black eye, a bruised cheek, a swollen lower lip, and a knocked-out tooth. She wears a bright blue gingham dress, an apron, and yellow latex gloves, and has her arms out.
The mural’s main figure was initially shown standing next to an open chest freezer and an upturned plastic lawn chair. The woman appeared to have disposed of an abusive male partner. Only the man’s pant cuffs, black socks, and black dress shoes could be seen poking out of the appliance.
Hours after the mural was confirmed by Banksy to be genuine on Instagram on February 14, workers from the Thanet district council removed the chest freezer, citing safety concerns. However, they returned the freezer to the site of the artwork a few hours later. A clear sheet of Plexiglas was also installed over the mural.
On February 15, workers loaded the mural’s chest freezer into a cargo van after the owner of the property called a London gallery for help preserving and securing the piece. Red Eight Galleries CEO Julian Usher told ITV News that the installation of Plexiglas and the removal of the chest freezer were both for security reasons, citing the high cost of guards to protect it around the clock.
“Now that’s up that’ll protect the piece, hopefully, from vandals or anyone marking or tagging the wall,” Usher said. “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.”
With a few exceptions, Banksy himself and his authenticating service, Pest Control, do not condone the sale of any work taken out of its original context. As a result, his works receive lots of attention any time they are altered.
In 2020, two Banksy murals in New Orleans, titled The Gray Ghost and Umbrella Girl, were defaced and tagged with other graffiti. Another piece in New Orleans, Looters, was tagged by other graffiti artists, and almost burned in a fire before it was removed from the property’s wall, and restored. Only one of the seven works Banksy made in Toronto are still visible to the public.
In the past, when auction houses like Sotheby’s were offered sawed-off Banksy murals, they refused to sell them. But successful sales of extracted Banksy murals can still be lucrative. In 2013 the owner of a gas station in Los Angeles auctioned a 5,000-pound, 9-by-8-foot chunk of brick wall with a Banksy stencil of a girl in a dress holding a basket of flowers and peering up at a security camera. The removal cost $80,000, and the piece sold for $209,000. In November 2021, the mural Crowbar girl was extracted from the wall of an electric shop and then was sold for an estimated $2.4 million to a private buyer.
There are no guarantees however that a Banksy mural on a building will make the property’s value skyrocket. Last October, a seven-story commercial building in Los Angeles on which Banksy had painted a stencil of a girl on a swing was auctioned, with an estimated value of $30 million. The building sold for $8.4 million.