Although Banksy has his fair share of haters, it’s beginning to feel as if no one likes seeing the artist’s work destroyed as much as Banksy himself.
This time, instead of an artfully concealed shredder, Banksy’s weapon of choice was acting legend and beloved weirdo Christopher Walken. Walken took a paint roller to one of the anonymous street artist’s signature stenciled rats in the final episode of the BBC limited series “The Outlaws,” which aired in the U.K. Wednesday night.
The comedic crime-thriller follows a motley crew of lawbreakers sentenced to do community service in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol, where things get newly complicated after they stumble onto an illicit sack of cash wanted by even more unsavory characters. As Walken and his cohorts continue paying their debt to society in the finale by painting over graffitied walls, his character, Frank, a small-time career criminal, encounters the rat image accompanied by two cans of spray paint and Banksy’s signature.
“Diane, look at this rat I found,” he says to his probation officer. Without lifting her eyes from her novel, she instructs Walken’s character to bag and bin any vermin under 10 kilos.
When he informs her he’s looking at a graffiti rat—and an “awfully good one” at that—she is unmoved. “Less debating, more painting,” she shoots back. With that, Walken shrugs and rollers over the image, just before the screen fades to black.
The show’s production company stated the work was genuine. “We can confirm that the artwork at the end of ‘The Outlaws’ was an original Banksy, and that Christopher Walken painted over that artwork during the filming of this scene, ultimately destroying it,” a spokesperson for Big Talk Productions said in a statement.
Representatives for the artist and Banksy’s authentication service, Pest Control, did not respond to inquiries from Artnet News about how the collaboration was arranged. The Sun reported that Banksy is a fan of Walken’s (who isn’t?) and that he appreciated that the series showcased his native city.
This, of course, is not the first time Banksy has destroyed his own work. He is perhaps most famous for orchestrating the remote shredding of his painting of a girl with a balloon at Sotheby’s in 2017, just moments after it sold for a premium-inclusive £1 million ($1.4 million). The partially mutilated work, rechristened Love Is in the Bin, returned to the block last month and fetched more than 18 times that sum, £18.6 million ($25.4 million).
Considering the heights to which Banksy’s market has soared recently, his cameo in “The Outlaws” could be considered another type of extremely pricey stunt. Between September 2020 and September 2021, the artist’s auction sales ballooned almost 500 percent, according to the Artnet Price Database. His work has generated a whopping $133.2 million so far this year.
For now, only Brits will have the privilege of watching Walken paint over a very short-lived Banksy. The episode is available exclusively to U.K. viewers on BBC’s iPlayer. The rest of us will either have to hope for a wider release at some point in the future, or try to pirate the series now and risk our own encounter with the long arm of the law.
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