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The British city of Hull has been abuzz this weekend over the sudden appearance of a mural by Banksy, which was criticized, vandalized, and subsequently saved by a local window cleaner. Painted on a disused, permanently raised bridge, the work depicts a child thrusting a wooden sword in the air with a pencil attached to its end, and is accompanied by the call, “Draw the raised bridge!” Banksy confirmed that he was responsible for the mural on Saturday by posting an photograph of it on his Instagram.

Controversy tends to follow the artist’s wry public messages, and it happened swiftly here: local councillor John Abbott called for the work to be scrubbed, telling BBC that the mural did not compare with “real art” in the city’s Ferens Art Gallery. Then the image was vandalized, twice — the boy’s foot was sprayed over with someone’s tag, and his body was later completely covered in white paint. People were furious, but their anger was soon subsided by the fast action of local window cleaner Jason Fanthorpe, who arrived on site to remove the paint.

“The missus was just going to bed when I showed her a picture of the vandalized Banksy,” Fanthorpe told Hull Daily Mail. “I was outraged, as a lot of people were.

“I’m a window cleaner. My van was already loaded up. All I needed to do was grab some white spirit and drive down there.”

Fanthorpe, who worked with other residents to carefully scrub the vandalized mural, has been hailed a hero. Hull City Council has since covered the work, whose subject is now slightly faded, with an acrylic sheet. Local residents, however, remain outraged at their officials for not acting sooner to protect it; many have taken to expressing their ire on their community Facebook page, One Hull of a City. Responding to their complaints, a Hull councillor said that the city could only raise a fence over the weekend as the council shuts down then, and that officials needed time to measure the mural to produce a protective screen.

Many residents have now moved on to debate another mystery: as Hull Daily Mail reported, a second piece of street art has appeared in the city, which was voted as the UK City of Culture 2017. Just around the corner from the bridge, written on a wall, is the line, “There must be more to life than writing ‘there must be more to life’ on the walls.” The artist himself has yet to claim it as one of his, but it’s already been defaced with the note, “NOT BANKSY PISS OFF.”

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...