Banksy cover up - Spanish graffiti artists destroy his 'master piece'
What is believed to be a work of British graffiti artist Banksy has caused a dispute in the hip and beautiful seaside city of San Sebastian in northern Spain.
But it's not because the artist has angered the authorities by defacing public property, it's because another graffiti artist was so jealous of Banksy's artwork that they tried to destroy it with big black tags.
The street-art fight began when Banksy's documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop aired in late September at the San Sebastian Film Festival. The next day, a nine-foot-high image, entitled A Frame Beyond Compare, appeared on a wall in the city's old quarters.
The work shows a man studying an ornate frame that is missing its canvas, apparently it's a reference to the picturesque city or a tongue-and-cheek barb at the films on show and the short lifespan of street art, who knows.
The graffiti was not signed by Banksy, whose tag has appeared everywhere from fake bank notes to live animals to cartoon signs on a recent episode of The Simpsons. And it was not even clear whether the mysterious artist had travelled to San Sebastian incognito, as he was believed to have done at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
But the work did look like a typical Banksy, with his characteristic black-and-white stencilled style and ironic undertones. A further clue was that small stencilled images labelled "Banksy Meninas," a reference to the Velazquez masterpiece, appeared on benches outside the Prado Museum in Madrid soon after the empty painting joined the San Sebastian scenery.
The city council in San Sebastian is convinced that the work was created by the underground artist from Bristol and they liked the empty painting so much that in October the culture councillor asked the public works director to make an exception to the city's anti-graffiti policy so that the work could be preserved.
San Sebastian's councillor for culture, Denis Itxaso, said: "Even if it isn't by Banksy, it is in any event a cultural expression."
But this did not go down well with the local graffiti artists.
First the local artists scrawled insults around the image, such as "sell out" and "money grabber", probably in reference to the high prices paid for works such as Banksy's green stencil of Mona Lisa and a lesbian version of Queen Victoria.
Then they defaced the graffiti itself, covering the deluded male art connoisseur from head to toe with black spray paint. Only the empty painting within the image survived largely unscathed with just a few scribbles over it.
But the cultural councillor said it was difficult to justify a clean-up to save it now that most of the original work had been covered with paint like an underground tunnel wall.
So this week, city workers scrubbed the wall clean. "Birth and death of a Banksy," El País, the biggest newspaper in Spain, announced yesterday. Soon after the cleaning crew finished its job, someone scrawled a naive frame in the same place where the legendary graffiti artist had painted.