New Banksy work discovered as threat of identity reveal looms

Appearing overnight, Finsbury tree mural has a strong environmental message

The mural's message is clear, says audio producer James Peak, 'Nature's struggling and it is up to us to help it grow back.' PA
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A suspected new work by the renowned, anonymous street artist Banksy has appeared overnight on the side of a building in north London.

Behind a cut-back tree near Finsbury Park, splodges of green paint have been sprayed on to a wall in patches.

Giving the illusion of foliage sprouting behind the seemingly lifeless tree, the paint drips down to the bottom-left corner of the wall where a figure holds a pressure hose. Stencilled in black and green, the figure looks up as drips of paint run over its face, appearing almost like sweat or tears.

James Peak, creator of BBC Radio 4 series The Banksy Story, told the broadcaster that the artwork is heavily coded with an environmental message.

“The message is clear,” he said. “Nature's struggling and it is up to us to help it grow back.”

Banksy often officially confirms his work by posting images on his website and social media platforms. He has not done so this case, though Peak also told the BBC that the new work bears the hallmarks of Banksy’s style and detail-orientated approach.

Those hallmarks often involve meticulous planning to avoid a lot of labour on site, allowing the eye-catching works to be created undetected. There is also usually a connection to the area. In the case of the Finsbury tree mural, the shade of green used matches the signs in the local neighbourhood.

Since the appearance of the work, many locals have taken photos of the mural to post online, including the Islington councillor Flora Williamson who said on X, formerly known as Twitter, “By far the most exciting thing to happen on today's canvass session on Hornsey Road was seeing that Banksy had come to Tollington over night. Lots of local interest – I'm a fan of it.”

The appearance of a potential work by the elusive artist comes a few days before a rare collection of 11 Banksy pieces are set to be auctioned off in Newcastle. The works, which include birthday cards, flyers and a hand-painted shop sign, were created before he was famous and are set to go under the hammer by auction house Anderson & Garland on Wednesday.

One piece titled Holywell Row Happy Choppers is from a Banksy series in which soaring military helicopters are decorated with pink bows. The work was rescued from the side of an office building and removed in sections. It is expected to sell for between £500,000 ($637,000) and £800,000 in the auction this week.

Active since the 1990s, Banksy's real name and identity officially remains a mystery.

His work often and overtly explore themes of political and social significance, having appeared on streets, walls and bridges not only in the UK but around the world.

One of his most recognisable works is titled Girl With Balloon; located under Waterloo Bridge at London's Southbank Centre, it features a stencil of a young girl reaching for a red, heart-shaped balloon. In 2018, a version of this work on paper self-destructed immediately after being sold at an auction for £1,042,000, and was renamed Love Is In The Bin.

It is considered the first piece of artwork in history to have been created during a live auction.

Another pivotal work is Rage, also known as Flower Thrower, which was created in Jerusalem in 2003 on the West Bank barrier wall. The politically motivated piece depicts a stencil of a male protester throwing a bouquet instead of a bomb, symbolising the choice of peace over violence.

Despite his anonymity, Banksy has gained international fame for his work. However, according to a recent Guardian story, the elusive artist’s identity might soon be publicly revealed due to a legal dispute over a print titled Monkey Queen, depicting Queen Elizabeth as a bejewelled primate.

Banksy's works in Palestine

Two art collectors, Nicky Katz and Ray Howse, are taking legal action against the graffiti artist’s company, Pest Control Office, following its alleged refusal to confirm the authenticity of the piece.

After three years of attempting to verify the work, the collectors are suing the artist for breach of contract. This might force Banksy to reveal his identity in court.

Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz and Neil Buchanan, the former host of the TV shoe Art Attack, are all public figures who have been suspected to be Banksy. In 2008, the Daily Mail announced that artist Robin Gunningham was Banksy, though both have denied it.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 10:49 AM