The graffiti artwork created by Banksy on a London Underground train was accidentally removed by a cleaner, it has been confirmed.
The secretive street art icon unveiled a video yesterday afternoon which showed him spraying images of rats onto the inside of a Circle line carriage.
The work was Banksy’s take on the coronavirus pandemic – with the rats pictured sneezing across the carriage and wearing face masks.
While TfL initially claimed that the artwork has removed because it breached a strict “no graffiti” policy, the Evening Standard confirmed that the artwork was actually erased by a cleaner who had no knowledge of its significance.
A source told the publication: “When we saw the video, we started to look into it and spoke to the cleaners. It started to emerge that they had noticed some sort of ‘rat thing’ a few days ago and cleaned it off, as they should.
“It rather changes the aspect for anyone seeking to go down the route of accusing us of cultural vandalism.”
Inviting Banksy to return, TfL said: “We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing.
“In this particular case, the work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy. We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.”
Art expert Joey Syer, who has previously sold Banksy’s artworks to collectors across the globe, told BristolLive that his work on the Underground could have been worth in the region of £7.5 million.
Banksy’s latest work comes over a month on from his last post, which saw him comment on Bristol’s toppled statue of Edward Colston.
Banksy also recently shared a powerful piece of artwork in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, portraying the burning of an American flag.
The artwork was shared on his Instagram page after the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed in Minneapolis when a white police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground during an arrest.
Earlier this year, Banksy celebrated the health workers of the UK in a sketch that portrayed them as superheroes during the ongoing battle against COVID-19.