Banksy’s Newest Work Scrubbed From London Train By Unwitting Cleaners

Banksy's hand sanitizer rat on a London Underground train. (Instagram/ @banksy)

COVID-19 has not been kind to public transport. With skyrocketing unemployment and vast swaths of the workforce toiling at home, transport systems around the globe have lost vital income. The number of people using BART right now is just 11% of what it usually is in July. Up to 40 of San Francisco’s 68 Muni lines may be disappearing for good. And in the U.K., Transport for London (TfL) expects to lose £4 billion this year.

Which might be why Banksy chose a London Underground train as the canvas for his most recent work, a pro-mask message for transit riders. Yesterday, he posted a video to Instagram that showed him decorating the Circle Line train with rats who were sneezing, parachuting via face mask and clinging to hand sanitizer. He also scrawled the message: “I get lockdown, but I get up again,” referencing Chumbawamba’s 1997 single, “Tubthumping.”

Because Banksy pieces generally go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, most people who find themselves gifted with one on their property tend to immediately preserve it, insure it or send it off to auction. Unfortunately for TfL, the company’s all-too-efficient cleaners did not recognize any of Banksy’s signatures and simply scrubbed the artwork away.

A TfL source told London’s Evening Standard, “When we saw the video, we started to look into it and spoke to the cleaners. It started to emerge that they had noticed some sort of ‘rat thing’ a few days ago and cleaned it off.”

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“It was treated like any other graffiti on the network,” another source told the BBC. “The job of the cleaners is to make sure the network is clean, especially given the current climate.”

TfL has since invited Banksy back for a do-over. “We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.”

It’s not the first time Banksy hasn’t received special treatment. After he adorned six buildings in San Francisco in 2010, most of them were defaced by taggers.