Long-lost, Katrina-inspired painting by graffiti master Banksy rediscovered, according to report | Arts

According to a CBS news report, a New Orleans painting by fabled street artist Banksy that was thought to be destroyed years ago may soon be restored.

The globe-trotting British graffiti artist paid a clandestine visit to the Crescent City in 2008, as the population evacuated due to Hurricane Gustav. With the help of assistants, Banksy created roughly 17 artworks, which poetically captured the long struggle to recover after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood that devastated the city in 2005.

As the world’s most popular living artist, Banksy’s attention to New Orleans was an uplifting, attention-getting gift to the beleaguered city.

Internationally renowned street artist Banksy installed multiple pieces of public art in New Orleans three years after Hurricane Katrina. But over the years the tributes have been covered up with different street art, political posters and plexiglass. Jamie Wax speaks to restoration artists on their effort to save the artworks.

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One of Banksy’s artworks, stenciled on a modest concrete block building in the Lower Ninth Ward, depicted a child playing on a rope swing that was made from a life preserver. Not long after it appeared, the painting was tagged over with red aerosol paint and eventually the building was demolished.

But in the CBS video, New Orleans hotel owner Sean Cummings explains that the concrete blocks bearing the artwork were saved and that, if all goes well, the blocks will be re-assembled and the painting will be restored. In the course of the video, CBS reporter Jaimie Waxx said that the painting had been salvaged by “a dump truck driver with an eye for art.”

If the recovery project comes to pass as predicted, it will be the second Banksy that Cummings has preserved. In 2019, Banksy’s rendering of army looters on Elysian Fields Avenue, was meticulously restored, after having been sawed from the stucco wall that held it. The painting, still affixed to a 1600-pound piece of cement wall, is now on display in Cumming’s International House Hotel, at 221 Camp Street.

Hotel-owner and real estate developer Sean Cummings has put a long-lost Banksy stencil back on public view (Photo by Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Most of Banksy’s Katrina suite have been painted over by property owners, destroyed by taggers or demolished with the buildings that bore them. The best-known survivor is the so-called “Umbrella Girl” at the corner of McShane Place (St. Claude Avenue) and Kerlerec Street and Banksy’s painting of a rival graffiti eradicator “the Gray Ghost” is still visible at the corner of Clio and Carondelet Streets.

The value of works by Banksy, whose real name and identity remains unknown, is always a matter of conjecture, but some have sold at auction for millions.

Cummings could not immediately be reached for comment.

See 11 of Banksy's New Orleans paintings from 2008

While New Orleans was distracted by the approach of Hurricane Gustav in August 2008, the superstar British graffiti artist Banksy stole into town. He and assistants then produced a suite of more-or-less 15 stencil paintings, many of which were poetic commentaries on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 flood. Only two or three Banksy’s remain intact in the location where they painted. (Photo by Tony O. Champagne, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

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