22 May 2024

British graffiti artist Banksy on Tuesday unveiled his latest UK street artwork, which appears to take aim at domestic violence against women as the world celebrates Valentine’s Day.

The mural, which appeared in Margate in southeast England, depicts a 1950s-style housewife with a swollen eye and a missing tooth seemingly shoving her male partner into a real chest freezer.

Despite being integral to the artwork, the abandoned freezer was later removed by council workers.

The elusive Banksy, whose true identity remains unconfirmed, posted three images of the work — which he entitled “Valentine’s Day Mascara” — on his Instagram account.

Two of the images were close-ups showing the woman, wearing a blue pinafore and yellow washing-up gloves, smiling but seemingly with a battered face.

Workers claiming to be from Thanet council, the local authority administering Margate, arrived at the site mid-morning Tuesday to clear away the dilapidated household appliance.

The move prompted bemusement — and even conspiracy theories — among bystanders, who noted it was usually hard to get the council to make prompt removals.

“People were sort of like, ‘Stop, stop, you know, this is a Banksy, right?'” local resident Laura Holden, 35, told AFP.

“And they (the workers) were like, ‘Yeah, no, we’ve got permission to take everything away’,” she said.

“It felt like it was part of the piece, and perhaps Banksy intended that all along, because we all know how hard it is to get Thanet District Council to come and collect our rubbish.”

Thanet council could not be reached for comment.

Others commended the apparent theme of the now-altered work.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Amanda Barden, 56.

“It’s a real topic that people can talk about, domestic abuse. I think the reference to Valentine’s Day as well, it’s bringing people in, it’s going to open up that dialogue.”

Banksy, known to hail from Bristol in southwest England, has been busy producing and selling dozens of limited-edition screen prints to raise funds to support civilians affected by the war in Ukraine.

The 50 prints, which show a mouse sliding down the side of a box with “FRAGILE” printed on it, were sold in December for £5,000 ($6,100) each, through the charity Legacy of War Foundation.

Their online auction attracted thousands of “hostile” web attacks launched from Russian internet addresses, the charity said at the time.

The artist also confirmed last month that he was behind seven murals that appeared on destroyed buildings around Kyiv last year.

By Agence France-Presse