Banksy artwork defaced in Park City

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2 2014 6:35 p.m. MST

Artwork by street artist Banksy was vandalized this week. The damage to the piece was discovered on Tuesday.

Steve Landeen, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Police believe a vandal defaced two Banksy art pieces that have stood on Main Street for almost four years.

Banksy is an anonymous street artist from the United Kingdom. He is known for his political, satirical and sometimes humorous street art.

The arrival of the Banksy pieces in Park City coincided with the debut of a documentary featuring Banksy, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Though there was some question as to whether the pieces were originals or copycats, the community embraced them.

"We saw these as kind of a classic piece that set a moment in time," said Alison Butz, executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, police received a call reporting that the glass casing over a Banksy piece outside Java Cow Cafe and Bakery, 402 Main, had been damaged, according to Park City Police Sgt. Jay Randall. The vandal apparently was unsuccessful in trying to break the glass covering the depiction of a cameraman uprooting a flower.

The responding officer spotted another damaged Banksy piece, a mural of an angel located near the steps to the garage at 537 Main, on his way to the scene. The glass covering on the mural was shattered and the piece entirely blocked out with brown spray paint, according to police.

The officer collected evidence at both scenes and found footprints. Video footage showed a white man taking a blunt object to the case of the Banksy piece outside the Java Cow Cafe and Bakery around 2 a.m. Tuesday, Randall said.

No footage was available for the piece at the parking garage.

Police could not give an estimate the value of the damaged art because it was not sanctioned or paid for, Randall said. However, the owner of the parking garage estimated the damage to that piece at $15,000.

If the vandal is caught, he could face criminal mischief charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on what a judge and insurance companies determine, Randall said.

"It is such a shame, heartbreaking even," said Robin Marrouche, executive director for the Kimball Art Center on Main Street. "Banksy's voice and importance in our culture today is significant, and the vandalism against his street art is just as upsetting as vandalism you read about against works by important artists of earlier times."

Graffiti is not something the city would typically embrace, but when the two pieces showed up during the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, the owners of the property opted to allow them to stay, Butz said.

"It started adding a bit of history to the street," she said.

Whitney Tassie, curator of modern and contemporary art for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, said she doesn't believe Banksy created his art to be preserved.

"It's always a shame, I think, when his work gets defaced," Tassie said, but as a graffiti artist, Banksy knows that his work is open to being either defiled or added to.

"Anytime that he makes a work, he knows that it's open for any other graffiti artist" to adjust or reframe how they want, she said.

There were mixed reactions to Bansky's work in October during a monthlong residency in New York City. There, Banksy revealed a new video, prank or picture each day, according to the Associated Press.

Park City police are looking for help with the investigation. Anyone with information about the vandalism can call 435-615-5500.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7

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