Bristol’s most famous export after Wallace and Gromit, Banksy, has been at it again. The street artist’s latest target? The London Underground.
Banksy shared a video on Instagram yesterday (Tuesday July 15) of his latest project, a face-mask themed work inside one of the Underground’s tube carriages (with that moquette, we’re saying the Circle line).
The stealthy street art satirist appears to have posed as a member of the network’s clean-up crew, entering the tube in high-vis gear and carrying a container of what looks like disinfectant spray but which actually spurts paint later in the video clip. The video is titled ‘London Underground undergoes deep clean’ and features the high-vis figure stencilling Banksy’s famous rats on to the carriage’s walls. The rats, this time, are seen either sneezing across the carriage or using face masks as parachutes. One of them is even clutching a bottle of hand sanitiser, using it to clear up Banksy’s graffiti tag.
The work is believed to be a critique on the government’s face-mask policy, with the release of the video coinciding with yesterday’s announcement that face masks must be worn in shops, but not until July 24. However, others have seen it as a positive message encouraging passengers to wear a face mask, a now-compulsory measure on public transport in the capital. The caption accompanying the video says: ‘If you don’t mask – you don’t get’.
As the video ends, the carriage doors display the message: ‘I get lockdown, but I get up again’, and the tune that it’s paraphrasing by ’90s prophets Chumbawamba kicks in.
But before you go boarding the next service to Aldgate, TfL has already confirmed that the work was removed from London Underground ‘some days ago’ as per its ‘strict anti-graffiti policy’.
‘We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing,’ said TfL in a statement. It added: ‘We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.’