‘Banksy bandit’ suspects re-bailed after stop sign art was ‘stolen’

The ‘Banksy bandit’ suspects have been re-bailed after a £250,000 piece of art was allegedly ‘stolen’ from a Peckham street in broad daylight.

Two men have been bailed pending further inquiries and have to return to a London police station in mid-March.

The stop sign featuring three military drones appeared at the junction of Commercial Way in Peckham on December 22.

But it was chopped off with bolt cutters just an hour after it was officially unveiled by the underground artist on December 23.

The Met said one man, aged in his 20s, was arrested on the day it happened and a second man, aged in his 40s, was detained the next day. 

The 'Banksy bandit' suspects have been re-bailed after the £250,000 stop sign piece of art was allegedly 'stolen' from a Peckham street in broad daylight

The piece of art was chopped off with bolt cutters just an hour after it was officially unveiled by the underground artist on December 23

Two men have been bailed pending further inquiries and have to return to a London police station in mid-March

Officers are still trying to track down the artwork.

Pieces by the rogue artist have been sold for millions of pounds – and experts are already speculating that it could make hundreds of thousands amid speculation that it may have been taken for a quick profit. 

One gallery owner told the BBC the artwork could be worth up to £500,000.

 Banksy confirmed the artwork – a traffic stop sign covered with three military drones – was his in an Instagram post shortly after midday on December 23. 

It was widely interpreted by followers of the artist as calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

That post attracted more than 1million likes in a single day.

In 2017 similar drone art appeared at Banksy’s Walled Off hotel in Bethlehem which was seen as a reference to Israel’s controversial wall in the West Bank.

The revelation led to a stream of locals descending on the site and taking photos of the installation on their phones.

During the incident one of the men fell down while attempting to climb up the pole to the sign

A pair of bolt cutters were left behind

The stop sign drones resemble those on another artwork, Civilian Drone Strike, which depicted them destroying a house while a little girl and her dog watch on in horror - it was sold for £200,000

But at around 12.30pm, the peaceful scene was shattered by the arrival of two men, one of whom balanced precariously on an Lime e-bike while hurriedly hacking the sign down with bolt cutters.

The Met said the incident was being investigated by its Central South criminal investigation department and that it was aware of the footage showing the sign being removed.

But it has asked anyone with information about the whereabouts of the sign to call police.

The sign has since been replaced to avoid endangering road users.

At the time of the theft, Ian Syer co-founder of MyArtBroker told MailOnline: ‘Street installations by Banksy are typically hard to sell due to usually having to remove entire walls of buildings.

‘But these chaps had it away in minutes but they’d be lucky to get £250k for it, if a buyer ever came forward.

‘However, it’s our view these installations should never be sold and should be preserved and enjoyed by the public, not stolen for a quick profit.’

The revelation it was carried out by Banksy led to a stream of locals descending on the site and taking photos of the installation on their phones

The Met has asked anyone with information about the whereabouts of the sign to call police

Banksy did not comment on the drama of the theft, but had been warned by a social media user: ‘The sign will be snatched pronto.’

The drones on the piece resembled those on another artwork, Civilian Drone Strike, which depicted them destroying a house while a little girl and her dog watch on in horror. 

It was sold for £200,000 to raise funds in opposition to a London arms fair. 

The theft was not the first time Banksy’s art work has been removed shortly after its creation.

A mural weighing 3.8 tons called Valentine’s Day Mascara appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day last year and was dismantled some hours after Banksy had shared a series of photos of it online.

The mural depicted a 1950s housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth, wearing an apron and yellow washing-up gloves, and throwing a man into a chest freezer.

At the time the resident of the property where the painting was created, who asked not to be named, said the freezer and other items including a broken garden chair used for the artwork had been removed ‘very quickly’ and put into a truck.

In November, it emerged a £1million Banksy mural criticising Brexit was partly destroyed after the local council demolished the building it was on to make way for a new £25million regeneration project.

This is not the first time Banksy's art work has been removed shortly after its creation. A mural weighing 3.8 tons called Valentine's Day Mascara appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine's Day this year and was dismantled by the local council

In November it emerged a £1million Banksy mural criticising Brexit was partly destroyed after the local council demolished the building it was on to make way for a new £25million regeneration project

The site of the building where Banksy's Brexit mural was painted

Banksy, whose career began in the 90s, is known by millions of people thanks to the appearance of dozens of iconic artworks in unexpected locations around the world, with many having gone on to sell for millions.

For years his identity has been a hot topic, with names such as Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja and Gorillaz founder Jamie Hewlett being floated around.

Also suggested is public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, who was ‘unmasked’ as Banksy by the Mail On Sunday in 2008 after an investigation into his past.

Regardless of who he his, Banksy’s works are hot property on the art market.

In 2021, his ‘Love is in the Bin’ work was bought for more than £18million, with its value having been boosted after a shredder hidden in its frame cut it to pieces moments after it was sold for the first time in 2018.

The work, previously known as ‘Girl with Balloon’, was just one of more than a dozen of Banksy’s creations that have sold for more than £2million.

Banksy uses art as a form of activism, regularly making societal and political statements with their works.

The artist was born just outside of Bristol in 1973 and he was a talented illustrator who drew cartoons.

Having also sprayed his tag across Bristol, Banksy then evolved with the times and began creating more sophisticated pieces, whilst always keeping his identity hidden.

'Love is in the Bin', a Banksy artwork that half-shredded itself during a 2018 auction, sold for £18.6 million - four times its estimate - in 2021

Prints of three of Banksy's works are seen above at Sotheby's in February 2022. Centre is  Kissing Coppers, next to Girl with Balloon and 'Vandalised Oils (Choppers)'

One of Banksy’s earliest works is the The Mild Mild West.

The large mural was painted in 1999 in Bristol’s Stokes Croft and shows a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.

It was painted by the artist over three days in broad daylight and is still in the city today, among some of Banksy’s other works.

The exhaustive MoS investigation into Banksy’s identity heard from dozens of friends, former colleagues, enemies, flatmates and even family members.

The search began with an image of a man in Jamaica at work with his stencils and cans of spray paint.

Although Banksy denied the image showed him, the Mail’s investigation was later backed by researchers at Queen Mary University.

They used ‘geographic profiling’ – a technique more often used to catch criminals or track outbreaks of disease – to plot the locations of 192 of Banksy’s presumed artworks.

The sites indicated ‘hot spots’ which were narrowed down to pinpoint an individual. Peaks within these clusters were found to correlate to a pub, playing fields and residential addresses closely linked to Mr Gunningham and his friends and family.

Mr Gunningham attended Bristol Cathedral School and was born in July 1973. A school photo of him bore a striking resemblance to the man in the Jamaica photograph.

A former school friend described him as being ‘extremely talented’ at art and admitted he would ‘not be at all surprised’ if he was Banksy.

In anonymous interviews he has done, Banksy has said he first became interested in graffiti at school.

And a fellow artist he was living with in Bristol in 1998, Luke Egan, went on to exhibit with Banksy at Santa’s Ghetto, an art store in London’s West End.

However, Mr Gunningham’s family denied that he was Banksy and the link was never explicitly confirmed.

This post was originally published on this site