Street art superstar Banksy has been tagged by lesser graffiti artists.
Two of New Orleans’ few Banksy pieces were defaced over Christmas weekend, with vandals nearly cutting holes in the barriers of both and writing in red spray paint “Team Robbo,” on one and “King Robbo,” on the other.
The 1434 N. Rampart St. mural “Umbrella Girl,” understood to be symbolic of the levee system’s failure to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, was the more severely tagged over of the two, although fans were quick to try and protect it from further damage.
“There are people out there who just don’t like Banksy, and others who see destroying his work as a way of making a name for themselves, but preserving this mural isn’t even about Banksy for me,” local street art tour guide Carlos Fundora told The Post on Monday. “The people of New Orleans have lost a lot this year because of the pandemic, and this public art piece is a source of comfort and joy for many of them.”
So, it’s no surprise the public reaction to his power scrubbing of “Umbrella Girl” vandalism was intense: “People in cars were yelling at me, thinking I was damaging it,” Fundora told NOLA.com.
He was able to mostly remove the red tag from piece.
“I said, ‘What is that red?’” Julie Posner told the local news outlet of the moment she noticed the tag while leaving the building the other mural is on this Saturday. “What made my heart sink was the permanence of this. It’s just so selfish.”
The tag is thought to possibly be a reference to late English graffiti writer King Robbo, who is believed to have been Banksy’s rival. The claim is bolstered by the fact that the hole cut in the 12-year-old artwork’s barrier appears to tombstone-shaped.
The Clio and Carondelet street building’s owner, restaurateur Greg Surrey, said he gave Banksy permission to paint the mural, known as “The Gray Ghost,” in 2008. Surrey told NOLA.com he plans to remove the tag and replace the plastic barrier, adding that he has previously considered paying to have the painting removed (a process which, he estimates, would cost at least $20,000) so he could auction it, but has so far chosen not to.
“I’ll just sell the Banksy and throw in the building,” Surrey said.
“The Gray Ghost,” one of roughly 15 stencil pieces which the secretive street artist put up around New Orleans in August in 2008, shows — in typical meta Banksy fashion — a man blotting out a graffiti’d painting of a sunflower.
Banksy’s other stencils from the period were quickly blotted out themselves, NOLA.com recalls, with building owners, graffiti eradicators and taggers almost immediately painting over and removing them. The mural on Surrey’s wall survived longer thanks to the plastic barrier he installed, allowing it to become a pilgrimage site for Banksy fans.