Banksy Mural, or a Look-Alike, Calls Out British Surveillance HQ

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 09:59 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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A graffiti mural thought to be the work of famous street artist Banksy has sprung up around a phone booth near Britain's Government Communications Headquarters featuring three prototypical trench-coated spies.

The Guardian reported that the mural was painted covertly overnight in Cheltenham on the side of local woman Karren Smith's house and incorporates her satellite dish into the work. Viewed from the street, the men appear to huddle around the sidewalk's telephone booth with recording equipment, suggesting the men are conducting surveillance. The Government Communications Headquarters has been accused of collecting and sharing private data with U.S., to the dismay of many citizens.

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Because it is "stenciled in his crudely efficient style" and features political commentary, the mural is thought to be a Banksy work. However, the infamous artist has not made a statement regarding the work.

The mural's commentary pertains to a current hot-button issue — government surveillance.

Some Britons have grown weary of Banksy, who came to prominence in the early to mid-2000s.

Jonathan Jones of The Guardian's "On Art" blog predicts it is a Banksy piece, particularly because "its glib satire is typical of his instinct for trendy political content" which he uses "to impress his bourgeois public."

Gallery owner Vince John disagreed, viewing it as a masterful piece.

"It's taking a swipe at GCHQ and commenting on the establishment, which is something that he does very well," Jones said, adding that Banksy's work is trite, counter to what graffiti used to represent.

"Once graffiti was a guttural art. It was rude and threatening. Respectable people abhorred it . . . Now it is a tame in-joke shared by a middle class so schooled in street art that homeowners are delighted to wake up with a daub on the side of their house – if they think it may be a valuable Banksy."

Smith appeared to be happy to showcase the art on her house.

"It's pretty good. It livens the street up a bit. There have been a lot of people about today looking at it," she told reporters.

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