Two people were arrested this weekend after Banksy’s latest work — a London stop sign adorned with what appears to be drones — went missing, hours after the elusive street artist revealed the piece on social media.
A man in his 20s was arrested Saturday and another man, in his 30s, was arrested Sunday for suspicion of theft and criminal damage, London Metropolitan Police spokesman Callum Jones said in a statement Sunday. He did not name the men.
Numerous videos and photographs captured the incident in real time Friday, showing a man standing on top of a bike, held steady by another man, and using a bolt cutter to dislodge the traffic sign from its post on Commercial Way in London’s Peckham district. He then yanked it off and ran, videos showed.
Banksy had posted his graffiti art on Instagram, depicting a close-up of the sign with three drones splayed across it, cutting across the word “STOP.” Many Instagram users took the imagery as a call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war and praised the artist for being vocal on the issue.
The anonymous street artist has signaled support for the Palestinian people and Gaza in the past, with some of his art scattered throughout the Gaza Strip. Some of the artist’s most famous pieces are in the West Bank: a masked man, posed in confrontation, hurling flowers, and a girl with balloons, seemingly set to float above Israel’s hundreds-miles-long wall separating the country and the West Bank.
Little is known about Banksy. But the British street artist and cultural prankster, whose artwork often carries political messaging, expanded the acceptance — and reverence — of graffiti and tagging-type artwork. Many of his trademark images are globally recognized.
The artist was probably born in the early 1970s and emerged as a graffiti artist around 1990, The Washington Post reported, in the same period when Bristol trip-hop musicians such as Massive Attack were becoming prominent. Some have suggested that Massive Attack’s Robert “3D” Del Naja is Banksy, although the evidence is not strong for that theory.
The artist has designed album covers and other materials for musicians, and “The Art of Banksy” features a soundtrack of mostly British indie pop and rock.
His motifs are highly prized. A version of another popular Banksy image, a girl reaching for a heart-shape balloon, sold at auction for $1.4 million in 2018, The Post reported. On resale — after the artist shredded it — the work sold for more than $25 million in 2021.
Jones, the London police spokesman, said authorities were investigating Friday’s theft, are looking for the sign and “have since replaced the road sign to avoid endangering road users.”