By Hannah Roberts & Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley
PA Media and BBC News
A man who watched a Banksy artwork on a stop sign being removed just an hour after it was confirmed as authentic said he “watched in awe”.
The artist, believed to have been born in Yate, installed the piece featuring three drones in Peckham in London.
Two men were seen taking down the sign at about 12.30 GMT. Banksy is not behind the removal.
Alex, 26, said no-one knew what to do and “we just watched it happen”.
The Metropolitan Police said there was no current investigation into the incident as no-one who owned the artwork had come forward to report it stolen.
The piece on Commercial Way was included in photos on his Instagram page on Friday shortly after midday.
During his lunch break, Alex rode a Lime bike to see the piece which was then used by a man to stand on to remove the art.
“This guy comes up and grabs it, we watched in awe as he bashed it,” he said.
“He fell off the Lime bike at one point. He disappeared and went away and about two minutes later he reappeared with bolt cutters and just sort of tried and tried and tried while everyone was watching.
“We said, ‘what are you doing?’ but no-one really knew what to do, we sort of just watched it happen.
“We were all a bit bemused; there was some honking of car horns.
“I went there thinking that people want that, I wanted to see it before something happened to it.”
Another witness said onlookers had shouted at the man while he tried to take the art piece down with the help of another.
“As soon as it (the art piece) went up online a few people cycled down to it to see it straight away and just sort of hung around,” they said.
Banksy has installed other pieces this year including Valentine’s Day Mascara, a mural weighing 3.8 tonnes, which appeared on the side of a house in Margate, Kent, on Valentine’s Day.
It depicted a 1950s’ housewife with a swollen eye and missing tooth, wearing an apron and yellow washing-up gloves, and throwing a man into a chest freezer.
In September it was placed in the foyer of The Art of Banksy exhibition in central London, where it can be viewed for free.
The exhibition features pieces including Girl With Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper and also focuses on Banksy’s Dismaland that was installed in Weston-super-Mare, The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem and recent works acknowledging the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The artist often refers to contemporary issues and in 2020 included messages about the coronavirus pandemic in his work.
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