A work of street art put up as a ‘bit of fun’ to replace Banksy’s Aachoo! in Bristol has been ‘stolen’ just four hours after it was revealed.
But the controversial artist who created it said he doesn’t want to involve the police in the theft – and has appealed for it to be returned.
London artist Mason Storm said he had intended to sell off the work for a local charity, but now said he’ll come back and do another work of art on the wall at the bottom of Britain’s steepest street, Vale Street in Totterdown.
The saga began on Thursday evening when Bristol Live revealed a replacement for Banksy’s Aachoo! had appeared on the side of the house on the corner of Park Street and Vale Street in Totterdown.
Banksy’s image of a woman sneezing out her false teeth appeared on the side of the house in December 2020, and despite the lockdown, attracted people from all over the country to see it.
London artist Mason Storm created a new work at that same location this week – teased by a ‘treasure hunt’ on his social media pages – although it was not on the wall itself, just on a large piece of wood attached to the wall.
It was a gentle dig at Banksy – featuring the Bristol artist’s famous rats with placards, balloons and a helicopter gunship with a smiley face. The placard read ‘Mason knows’.
Ten years ago, Mason Storm came to prominence as an artist in London after he promised to reveal Banksy’s face in a work of art, although he didn’t and it was just a stunt.
The work was uncovered late on Thursday afternoon, reported within the hour by Bristol Live last night, but by 10pm it had been taken away.
Local residents said two men turned up in a car to take it away, but found it was too large to fit in the vehicle, so they called in a van which arrived shortly afterwards.
The artist who put up the work said he initially thought the person who took it did so mistakenly.
“I had teased this as a treasure hunt all week, and the prize for being the first to find it was a print of it,” he told Bristol Live. “So I thought maybe they thought the prize was the actual work, which it isn’t.
“But since last night, no one has said they’ve got it, so it looks like someone has taken it. It’s quite literally disappeared.
“I was expecting it to be taken down, but not to last just four hours, so it’s a bit of a nightmare.
“It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, especially with the placement of it at that particular wall. But the plan was to sell it off for a charity in a year’s time, which I’d arranged with the Stowe Gallery,” he added.
Mason said he was reluctant to speculate about who took it or why. “You have to draw your own conclusions. I don’t think it would be Banksy or his people – he’s got a lot bigger fish to fry than something like this. But he does have a very loyal following, and I can see how some people might have not liked it.
“I’m not universally loved, especially in Bristol, and the placement was cheeky, but it was a bit of fun, as opposed to anything more malicious.
“Sometimes people get a little bit too involved, and take things way too seriously. If it doesn’t come back, I’ll just paint another. I’ll do something else for the street too.
“I don’t want to involve the police – it’s art, it’s not real life. I wouldn’t want anyone to get in any sort of bother about something like this.
“But if the person who took it could either put it back there, or tell me where it is so I can come pick it up, that would be great,” he added.