A painting by legendary British street artist Banksy that was thought to have been destroyed years ago has been rediscovered and is being restored. The painting, which depicts a child playing on a rope swing fashioned from a life preserver, was stenciled on the exterior of a flooded Lower 9th Ward Saloon that has since been demolished.
But according to a CBS news report, the 20 concrete blocks on which the image was painted were recovered and preserved by “a truck driver with an eye for art.”
Those blocks are now in the possession of art-loving property developer and hotel owner Sean Cummings, who plans to return the painting to its former glory. Which won’t be easy as the Banksy was vandalized with scarlet spray paint before the building was destroyed. Presumably that paint would have to be removed without damaging the original artwork underneath.
If the conservation project turns out as hoped, it will be the second Banksy that Cummings has preserved. Banksy’s controversial painting of National Guard looters on Elysian Fields Avenue was soon covered with layers of graffiti tags and pasted posters.
But by 2017, the painting from the stucco wall that held it had been sawed off and painstakingly restored. The artwork, still attached to a 1,600-pound piece of cement wall, is now displayed in Cumming’s International House Hotel, at 221 Camp St.
At the time, Cummings said he spent $50,000 on the project and employed preservationists who used everything from precision sandblasting to the razor-sharp tips of scalpels to remove the layers of vandalism that covered the looters.
While New Orleans was distracted by the approach of Hurricane Gustav in August 2008, Banksy paid a secret visit to the Crescent City, where he and assistants created approximately 17 works of art. The paintings poetically captured the long struggle to recover after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the subsequent flood.
Banksy is the world’s most celebrated living artist. But despite its fame, New Orleans has not been particularly kind to its artwork. Many of the stencils in his Katrina suite were quickly painted over by property owners, destroyed by taggers, or demolished along with the buildings that bore them. The most famous survivor is the so-called “Umbrella Girl” on the corner of McShane Place (St. Claude Avenue) and Kerlerec Street and Banksy’s painting of a rival graffiti eraser “the Gray Ghost” is still visible on the corner of Clio and Carondelet Streets .
The value of works by Banksy, whose real name and identity remain unknown, is always a matter of conjecture, but some have sold at auction for millions.
Cummings declined to comment for this story.
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