Last week we explored the current crop of street art adorning the walls around Camden. But what of pioneering icon Banksy, who’s had a long and creatively fruitful relationship with north London?
Some of his most celebrated pieces have been sprayed on these parts, after which an inevitable battle then unfolds, with taggers, rivals, council cleaners, Perspex-erecting residents and/or opportunist thieves all getting in on the action.
The hoo-ha is, of course, is as much a part of the artwork as the piece itself. Much like beloved lost London nightclubs, a good Banksy probably shouldn’t last forever, is much imitated, and produces a highly emotional response from all who feel a personal connection with it.
Here’s our pick of the most interesting local(ish) Banksys, the genuine ones to appear in the area over the last decade or more – and what became of them.
Tox and Rats in Kentish TownA selection of Banksy’s famous rats appeared in and around the streets of K-Town and Chalk Farm when the Bristolian artist first became active in London in the mid noughties. In fact Camden Council were among the first to protect their own such rodent – sprayed on the wall of their Judd Street HQ – behind a sheet of Perspex. However, when local Bhupen Raja attempted to similarly frame Banksy’s more recent effort on the wall of his Jeffery’s Street flat, the council forced him to remove the unauthorised plastic (see above). The artwork, a tribute to jailed hardcore tube train tagger (and Camden boy) Tox, was soon defaced and then painted over. Mixed messages galore.
Manson in ArchwayHaringey Council saw off Archway’s famous hitch-hiking Charles Manson in prison clothing back in 2005 with their high pressure jets. Perhaps Manson’s request to be whisked off “anywhere” was taken a bit too literally.
The battle of Regent’s CanalThis famous work appeared one night in December 2009, at four separate locations along the canal towpath, in the heart of Camden Town. Most controversially, he painted over one of the capital’s original 1980s graffiti pieces, by the respected Robbo, reimagining it as wallpaper. Robbo and his team took offence, and cleverly defaced the new Banksys, including changing his wry, sinking I Don’t Believe In Global Warming to “I Don’t Believe In War”, plus the tag line “It’s too late for that sonny!”
The inevitable fate of the Chalk Farm MaidBack in 2006, the folks at the then newly reopened Roundhouse were chuffed to have one of the Banksy Maids appear, surreptitiously sweeping rubbish under their wall, which drew priceless media attention to the venue. Its pavement-side location also proved irresistible to jokers, taggers and chancers, who set upon it on an almost nightly basis. After being scratched out, sprayed over and even carefully restored by persons unknown, the cycle of activity eventually became too much and the original work was lost. The Roundhouse have kept street art alive on the site though, firstly commissioning a huge leopard and now a locomotive to liven up the dull concrete lining the portals to Primrose Hill.
Read our guide to Camden street art here