This Banksy Mural Was Salvaged From the Wall of a London Office Building

Large piece of street art against a white backdrop

Banksy’s Happy Choppers appeared on the side of an office building in east London in 2006.
Anderson & Garland

A restored Banksy mural salvaged from a London office building could sell for as much as $890,000 at auction this month.

The piece, called Happy Choppers or Holywell Row Happy Helicopters, appeared in 2006 on the exterior wall of a building in east London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The six-by-four-foot mural depicts three Apache attack helicopters decorated with pink bows. Banksy, the enigmatic British street artist, stenciled his signature in the work’s lower right corner.

After the mural appeared, crowds began visiting the office building to see it, reports Artnet’s Verity Babbs. Unfortunately, the curious onlookers kept accidentally activating a security light, and the building’s frustrated owner had the artwork painted over in black. The owner sold the property the following year.

The new owner had no idea a Banksy mural was hidden beneath the paint. Later, he was flipping through a photo book called Banksy Captured and came across a picture of the mural on the side of his building. He ran outside and saw a mostly black wall—but he noticed a helicopter propeller peeking out near the top, reports the Newcastle Chronicle’s Barbara Hodgson.

“We were astounded to discover that our newly purchased office building was the canvas for an artwork of this significance,” says the anonymous owner in a statement, per the Observer’s Alexandra Tremayne-Pengelly.

The owner decided to attempt to uncover the mural. He called in London’s Fine Art Restoration Company, which has restored other Banksy works, including Snorting Copper and Sandcastle Girl.

“To our knowledge, no one had attempted to rescue a fragile work of high-profile street art like this before,” adds the owner.

Restoring the piece while it remained on the side of the building proved challenging, so conservators divided it into eight sections and carefully removed each one. They then cleaned off the black paint, pollutants, grime and graffiti by local artists that had accumulated over the years. Along the way, the team also performed a chemical analysis of the spray paint pigments.

“As these murals do not use a medium traditionally found in art, our conservators investigated the chemistry of the original pigments and developed new techniques suitable for the safe treatment of aerosol art,” says Chris Bull, director of the Fine Art Restoration Company, in a statement, per Observer.

All told, the work took about a year. Now that restorations are complete, the piece will go on sale at Anderson & Garland, an auction house based in Newcastle, England, on March 20. Ahead of the auction, art lovers can see the mural for themselves during public viewings on March 15, 16 and 18.

Anderson & Garland has handled Banksy works in the past: In early 2022, it sold a piece called Merrivale Stable—a model stable featuring the words “Go big or go home”—for £1 million. Banksy had secretly added the small structure to the Merrivale Model Village attraction in the town of Great Yarmouth in England.

Last fall, the auction house also sold three additional pieces from Banksy’s Wrong War series, which also feature attack helicopters tied up with bows, for over £32,100.

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