Interesting that now that Banksy is considered a legitimate artist, the headline is about ‘vandals’ attacking ‘artwork’. Strange how any alterations to the ‘art’ is vandalism when surely Banksy’s whole aesthetic is the democratisation of art and public space, and one inseparable element that of putting art in a public space is the possibility - or likelihood now, given his prominence - of interference from someone or something else. He will have put up this piece knowing these things full well, probably expecting ‘vandalism’ and maybe even hoping for it after seeing publicly owned, un-vandalised works of his sell to private collectors for heinous amounts of money that doesn’t even cross his palm.
Looking at the pictures, it looks as though just the faces/heads of the three characters were deliberately whitewashed, (not like the paint splattered ‘naked man hanging out of a window’ at the bottom of Park Street in Bristol or the many that have been painted over) which could easily be a comment on Banksy’s massive pop culture status. Or a comment on the fact that people are trying so very hard to keep his work (in general, not just this one) untainted, going against the idea of street and stencil art by putting him up in the fine art canon, or any number of things.
How many other excellent stencil artists have had their stuff whitewashed over, or tagged over or whatever, without public disapproval? What makes their pieces less worthy of appreciation?
I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to vandalise street art or that these pub goers were wrong to clean off the paint, I just think the way that people reacted says quite a lot about people’s attitudes to art.