Onlookers expressed dismay over the broad-daylight heist, though no one attempted to stop it
Two men were filmed removing a sticker-decorated stop sign from a south London street corner less than an hour after street artist Banksy had claimed it as one of his works in a video shared to social media on Friday.
The footage shows two men working together to remove the stop sign, one propping up an electric bike while the other uses tools to remove the red octagon the artist had recently decorated with three decals of drone aircraft from its signpost. The man carrying the sign then appears to run to a waiting car.
The sign, located at the corner of Southampton Way and Commercial Way in the borough of Peckham, was removed in full view of several phone-wielding onlookers and traffic, shortly after an image depicting the artwork – and, crucially, the name of the street on which it was located – was posted to Banksy’s Instagram page.
A brand new Banksy artwork was stolen from a South London street today less than an hour after it was revealed to be a genuine piece on the artist’s Instagram pic.twitter.com/5rFTUFhWlM
— UB1UB2 West London (Southall) (@UB1UB2) December 22, 2023
Followers of the artist generally interpreted his latest artwork as a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, where the Palestinian health ministry says Israel has killed upwards of 20,000 people in just 10 weeks in a bombing campaign internationally condemned for its brutality.
A witness told the Associated Press that Banksy was apparently not responsible for the removal, as the alleged thief initially attempted to remove the sign with his bare hands before coming back with tools and successfully liberating it.
Onlookers can be heard in the video sighing and expressing dismay as the broad-daylight heist is pulled off, though no one apparently thought to stop it.
Banksy’s works sell for millions of dollars at auctions, though the artist’s team – known as “Pest Control” – is known to issue authenticity certificates allowing the works to fetch top price only for art that is not deemed to be stolen.
Last year, eight men were convicted in France of stealing a Banksy painting paying tribute to the victims of the 2015 Bataclan concert massacre. Stolen from the door of the Paris venue in 2019, it was eventually tracked to a farm in Italy and recovered. Another eight people were arrested by Ukrainian authorities in December for stealing a mural the artist had painted on a wall in Gostomel, a town on the outskirts of Kiev.