Banksy’s Spy Booth is in the process of being removed from the house on which it was created, having been sold for an undisclosed amount, with the new owner intending to resell it at auction in London.
The stencil piece depicts three men, clearly government spooks in matching raincoats and trilby hats, eavesdropping on the public telephone box that resides on the pavement outside the house, with crude vintage listening, recording and transmitting equipment.
The piece appeared overnight in April on the outer wall of a privately-owned house on Hewlett Road, Cheltenham, three miles away from the government listening post, GCHQ, and since its authentication from Pest Control Office, has attracted hordes of visitors from around the world.
An unnamed builder working for the scaffolding company insisted on Wednesday that the scaffolding was being erected in order to allow the owner to fix the rendering on the wall, and that “People don’t need to worry” because the piece would remain. This position was echoed by Cheltenham City Council, who said they believed this story to be true.
Now it seems that this original statement was a misdirection, as an employee of the scaffolding company has now revealed that the piece has been sold by the owner of the house on which it was created for an undisclosed sum.
“We are not doing anything illegal,” said John Joyce of Q Scaffolding, “We are preserving Banksy’s legacy.”
He continued to say that by removing the piece, it would be protected against vandalism.
The piece was actually vandalised within a week of its creation, when someone daubed white paint over the faces of the three characters, but a passer-by noticed before the paint had dried, prompting residents and drinkers from the local pub to rush to the rescue, managing to successfully clean off the wet paint without damaging the Banksy piece.
The removal will come as bad news to Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood, who earlier said that he would be “disappointed” if the owner of the house decided to sell the work.
A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Police said that increased social tension among residents that didn’t want to see the piece removed had led to the posting of greater numbers of police officers to the area.
Local business owners are also disappointed to see the piece go, with many of them stating that the increased numbers of people visiting the area to see the piece first hand had helped generate extra income.