This article was originally published by VICE Germany
Germany is not really known as the epicentre of street art anyways, but now this happened: An unidentified person "destroyed" the only remaining Banksy piece in the country. The piece 'Bomb Hugger' in Hamburg's Steinwegpassage got a bright decoration: the word GRAFFITI painted in blue paint, streaks of colour running down the wall, defacing the stencil of a little girl hugging a bomb.
So what happened here? Between 2002 and 2003 the by-then rather well known writer visited Hamburg and left four pieces in the wake – but only one survived the last 13 years. Of course now Banksy's art has become so popular that his images can be found in museums, books and overrated movies; to the point that the original premise of street art – transiency in a fast paced world – doesn't seem to apply to his art any more. Which is why the Spiegelberger foundation decided to cover the artwork with a piece of acrylic glass two years ago: the danger that some drunk idiot could deface this criticism of war with a tag or a penis doodle must have been too serious.
Unfortunately, the confinement of the artwork wasn't enough to save it from the "anonymous vandal". According to newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, there's currently a discussion concerning the different ways of restoring 'Bomb Hugger' to its original state and protecting it more efficiently in the future.
If you're fond of street art and graffiti you should be more than irritated by these ideas. Even Banksy himself is known to reject the commercialisation and idealisation of his art. He shows up, paints and disappears into anonymity – like most of his fellow street artists. So if the artist himself doesn't seem to mind that his work will be modified, copied, painted over or reinterpreted, why should outsiders start turning this fast paced art into a stationary museum item? Does the Spielberger foundation not get street art or are they trying to maintain their status as a tourist highlight for "urban art aficionados"?
Some people on Twitter suspect Banky's behind the whole thing. Indeed, you can't really help asking yourself if that graffiti is really an act of evil vandalism or whether, maybe, it's an artistic statement in itself. That graffiti is street art – art that isn't plastered to the walls of the Louvre but that's happening right here on the street, right now. Accessible and visible to everyone. And if someone who's not even part of the process decides to cover street art up with a pane of glass just because it's made by someone whom people actually make money off now – while other writers' work is ritually classified as criminal damage – then let's spray all over it and let the paint run down behind the protective glass pane.
By now the blue letters have reportedly been removed. The question of whether the restoration or, any of it for that matter, makes any sense remains. Twitter user oma_kazi sums it up nicely: „glaube [sic!] banksy hat sich selbst zerstört, kunst im käfig—wollte der garantiert nie sein!" ["I think Banksy has destroyed himself, art in a cage – he certainly never wanted that."]