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Has the Banksy Brexit mural backfired?

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A mural by street artist Banksy recently appeared in the English town of Dover on Sunday last week, showing a worker chipping a star away from the European Union flag. The four-storey artwork, located on the wall of a derelict building beside the major A20 road, went up overnight on Saturday (May 7) and depicts a man in overalls up a ladder, using a hammer and chisel to remove one of the EU flag's 12 gold stars. Cracks starting at the centre of the eroded star stretch across the blue flag. Banksy confirmed the mural was his on Monday, sharing photographs of it on his official Instagram account.

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Dover is directly across the channel from Calais, and the most commonly used port for ferries crossing into England from the French town – until recently home to the notorious Calais Jungle refugee camp. Calais remains a landing point for migrants seeking to make the journey to the UK. While Banksy's work has been increasingly political, the mural marks the first time the British artist has commented on Brexit, despite 10 months passing since the EU referendum. His most high-profile work in that time has been the Walled Off Hotel, a functioning “all-inclusive vandals resort” in Bethlehem, five metres from the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank. His last major work in this country was, of course, the Dismaland 'bemusement park' in Weston Super Mare back in 2015.

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Business as usual for Banksy then. Or so we all thought, until yesterday morning, when it transpires the world's most famous vandal might have actually made a rare error by accidentally creating the mural on the side of a building owned by a wealthy family with whom he shares a tumultuous history. The derelict building in question is owned by the Godden family, whose vast property empire stretches to neighbouring Folkestone, where, three years earlier, another Banksy work, called “Art Buff,” appeared on one of their properties. The artist said at the time that he has intended the piece to remain in place as the centrepiece of a local arts festival, and the Goddens lost an ensuing High Court battle when they tried to sell it.

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Art Buff

With this latest piece, however, Jeremy and Jordan Godden, who inherited the property business from their late father, Jimmy, have immediately announced plans to sell the new work, which was recently defaced by a crude Clash fan) for £1 million. Something of a coup for them considering the building in question was earmarked for demolition! Of course, it seems very curious that such a meticulous individual as Banksy would make such an error, so maybe he's trying to say something here by literally giving it to the Goddens? The art dealer hired by the Goddens to sell the work - which will involve removing the wall from the building - is Robin Barton, who runs the Bankrobber Gallery in Mayfair and specialises in Banksy. He said believes that “We will probably never get to the bottom of why Banksy does what he does,” and I'm inclined to agree. It's always fun to speculate though!

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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