Banksy’s Cheltenham mural “Spy Booth” which appeared last April on a house three miles from the top government listening post GCHQ, has been granted listed protection. The mural created international news coverage when it was splattered with white paint, sprayed with silver and defaced with red graffiti. At one point a thief attempted to cut the mural from the wall while the community fought the property owner over ownership of the artwork.
The “unauthorised” mural was added to the Grade II* listed property without listed building consent, so could not be included in its listed status. Cheltenham Borough Council voted by 12 votes to one to grant the application. Now with listed building consent, both the mural and the building’s satellite dish will be protected from unauthorised alteration or removal. Martin Chandler, borough council case officer, said: “It will be afforded a greater level of protection than it has currently but it doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with future applications to consider other changes to it.” “It [planning consent] doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be retained in situ.”
An immediate halt to the removal of the Cheltenham Banksy was issued by the local council last summer. The notice stated that A temporary stop notice has been issued to halt work on the grade II listed property, where a Banksy artwork was painted. Local residents had been attempting to save “Spy Booth” mural after it was claimed it had been sold to a London art dealer and would be removed and taken to the capital. Banksy admitted painting the work on a house three miles from the government communications GCHQ ‘spy’ headquarters when it appeared on his official website.
Banksy is a legendary graffiti artist. His work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road. Most recently the artist has experimented with film, achieving an Oscar nomination for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. Consistently controversial, Banksy is described by some as genius and others as a vandal. Regardless of whether he is inspiring admiration or provoking outrage, his name is one that is well-known around the world.
The new listed status for the artwork means that it will be protected in-situ for many years to come.