Just a few hours after it was unveiled on his Instagram account, Banksy’s latest artwork was ‘vandalised’, and has now been put under the protection of plexiglass. The work, which depicts two reindeer harnessed to a public bench in Birmingham’s Vyse Street, was first presented in a video – with over 3 million views at the time of writing – featuring a homeless man named Ryan, with the caption “God bless Birmingham. In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter – without him ever asking for anything.”
The ‘vandal’ – which may have even been Banksy himself adding the finishing touch – jumped over the barriers in front of the work and – perhaps fittingly – added a red nose to the reindeer.
Image credit: © Birmingham Mail
The work was sprayed on the side of a wall belonging to the railways who have now taken extreme care in guarding it. Talking to the BBC, David Golding of Network Rail said: “As a railway family our hearts go out to the homeless, especially at this time of year. Banksy’s wall art has captured their plight so well. It’s right we protect it so everyone can see it. We discourage any graffiti and we spend a lot of time removing it from around the network… but it’s not every day we get a bona fide Banksy.”
The work is now being hailed as a consciousness raising piece, highlighting the plight of the homeless in Birmingham and around the country amidst devastating cuts to social housing and NHS services that have left many struggling. Landing in the middle of an election week, Banksy’s latest work is as ever on point when it comes to timing and reflecting the state of the nation.