Three stencils by the street artist Banksy have been destroyed by construction workers in Melbourne, bringing the number of works by the renowned artist wrecked on a single stretch of inner-city laneway to five in two years.
The stencils – of rats on the walls of ACDC Lane, off Flinders Lane – were believed to be the largest single collection of Banksy’s works in the city. They painted by the British artist in 2003.
They were apparently destroyed by construction workers installing a new doorway, above which the words “dream big” now stand.
The stencils were two metres from the site of two other Banksy stencils that were destroyed in 2014, and join a collection of the artist’s work to be destroyed in Melbourne.
In 2013 a damaged stencil of a rat and an image of a girl hugging a bomb were painted over on the walls of a Fitzroy church by the building owner’s father-in-law, who tried to help out by painting the building while house sitting. He did not know the significance of the stencils.
In 2012 an image of a parachuting rat on a Greville Street shop was destroyed by construction workers.
In 2010 cleaners from Melbourne city council scrubbed another image of a rat from the walls of Hosier Lane, and in 2008 vandals poured acrylic paint behind a thick, protective piece of perspex placed over a Banksy in Cocker Alley. They wrote “Banksy woz ere” over the top.
While the location of the stencils was well-known in Melbourne’s artistic circles, some had responded to the earlier destructions by refusing to disclose their locations – lest they too be targeted by vandals.
In a blog post about the latest destruction, Eidelson said that had been the wrong approach. “I am angry but perhaps it is because I feel guilty,” he said. “I thought this iconic art was safer by hiding it rather than advertising its existence.
“I was wrong. It is time to speak up. The cultural heritage of our city is under threat.”
Eidelson said Melbourne’s laneways were under-protected and being chipped away by businesses and developments trying to capitalise on their image. “Only public pressure will change this careless planning mindset,” he wrote.
A spokeswoman from the City of Melbourne told Fairfax Media the city tried to “preserve legal street art murals where possible” but “the very nature of street art is that it is temporary, ephemeral and forever changing”.
“Melbourne is the street art capital of Australia and we see this art as vital to the city’s vibrancy,” she said.
Melbourne is not the only city to have removed Banksy artworks. In 2014 a council in Essex painted over an artwork that it deemed to be “racist” and in 2013 a work in central London was removed after the deputy mayor said keeping it would be seen as “condoning” graffiti.
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