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Art & Culture

Banksy Art: British Couple Forks Out $250,000 to Discard Banksy Mural Amid Maintenance Nightmares

  • Culture.org
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  • June 2, 2023
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  • 4 minute read
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Banksy Art: British Couple Forks Out $250,000 to Discard Banksy Mural Amid Maintenance Nightmares
Key Takeaways
  • Banksy's unexpected mural on the Coutts' building in Lowestoft, UK, sparked both admiration and troubles.
  • Maintenance and security concerns, coupled with potential legal implications, lead to immense stress for the couple.
  • The mural became a target for vandals and opportunists attempting to steal parts for sale.
  • The couple opted to remove the mural at a staggering cost of $250,000, intending to sell it to recoup their losses.
  • Questions remain about the responsibilities of local authorities in protecting such public artworks.

 

In this article, we’ll delve into the high-stakes predicament of a British couple, Garry and Gokean Coutts, who found themselves burdened with an unexpected Banksy mural and the hefty price tag for its upkeep. 

From an anticipated art treasure, it turned into a source of distress, ultimately forcing them to shell out a whopping $250,000 for its removal.

The Unexpected Gift: Banksy’s Mural Appearance

An ordinary day turned extraordinary for British couple Garry and Gokean Coutts in August 2021. 

The couple’s building in Lowestoft, U.K., was chosen as the canvas for an original artwork by the elusive street artist, Banksy. This addition was a part of the artist’s acclaimed “Great British Spraycation” series.

Banksy, famed for his anonymity and striking art, had erected the scaffolding covertly. The Coutts assumed this was for municipal repairs. 

To their surprise, they found an avian-themed masterpiece adorning their building, a phenomenon that would soon bring more than just aesthetic value.

From Marvel to Migraine: The Unforeseen Consequences

Initially, the Banksy mural seemed like a boon. It added to the property’s value, catching the eye of the Lowestoft Town Council, which saw the potential for a new tourist attraction. 

The council considered placing a preservation order on the work. However, it fell upon the homeowners to maintain the piece at an annual cost of £40,000, equivalent to $49,000.

Crowds of art enthusiasts started flocking to the mural. 

This led to the need for a night watchman, hired by Mr. Coutts, after an attempt was made to steal and sell part of the artwork on Facebook. 

Further incidents included attempted theft of the scaffolding and other individuals aiming to deface the mural with white paint.

The initial excitement turned into a stress-inducing reality for the Coutts. 

Dealing with the vandalism, maintaining the artwork, and managing the increasing foot traffic proved to be more than they had bargained for. Mr. Coutts candidly shared, “At first, it was obviously incredible but as things have gone on it has become extremely stressful. I’m not sure Banksy realizes the unintended consequences on homeowners.”

A Pricey Dilemma: The Decision to Remove the Mural

The mounting pressure led the couple to make a difficult decision in April. They chose to remove the mural. 

This was no small task, involving a 40-foot crane and a considerable expense of £200,000, or around $246,300, to safely extract the 50,000-pound wall bearing the artwork. 

The move sparked controversy, with onlookers expressing their disappointment.

The process was labor-intensive and delicate. They needed to reinforce the mural with 12 layers of resin, fiberglass, and five tons of steel before using the crane to remove it.

The couple’s building in Lowestoft, U.K., was chosen as the canvas for an original artwork by the elusive street artist, Banksy. This addition was a part of the artist’s acclaimed “Great British Spraycation” series.

Post Removal Plans: The Coutts’ Hope to Recoup Losses

Despite the considerable financial burden, the Coutts hope to recover some of their losses by selling the mural. 

A similar Banksy piece was previously sold for six figures, suggesting that there is a lucrative market for these works. 

The couple assured they would replace the original with a replica, keeping the spirit of the art alive while freeing themselves from the ongoing maintenance demands.

However, the controversy surrounding the removal has sparked a conversation around the responsibilities of homeowners and local authorities towards public art. 

As David Sobon, who has experience staging mural festivals, pointed out, “most cities can’t make decisions quickly—there’s too much red tape.”

It is within the couple’s legal rights to remove the artwork from their property. Yet, the council notes, “Banksy’s works, by their nature, may not always be permanent features.”

The Coutts’ predicament underscores the need for clearer guidelines and support systems for homeowners who find themselves guardians of public art. 

It serves as a reminder that such artistic surprises, while initially thrilling, can come with significant challenges. 

As they now plan to sell the mural to recoup their losses, the couple’s experience highlights the unintended consequences and complex issues surrounding public artworks and their preservation.

Conclusion

Art can be a gift or a curse, as evidenced by the Coutts’ ordeal with their unexpected Banksy mural. 

Their predicament underscores a broader question about the responsibilities and roles of homeowners, communities, and local authorities in preserving and maintaining public artworks

Even as they hope to sell the mural to recoup their substantial losses, the couple’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for others about the potential unintended consequences of owning a piece of guerilla art.

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