JMW Turner's preliminary sketch of the Grand Canal
was also painted over by council workmen in 1837
Bumbling council officials have unwittingly removed a piece of graffiti art sketched in Petersfield by a world-famous artist.
The artwork – a symbolic meditation on the tension between the younger and older generations in Petersfield – had been left untouched on a roadsign at the top of College Street for eight hours before East Hampshire District Council intervened last week.
Officials removed the sketch by notoriously secretive artist Banksy – whose works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds – after a local pensioner complained of vandalism.
The sketch, comprising the words “F**k off” in foot-high lettering and some abstract paint sploshes, covered the sign giving directions to the station.
A local resident, Brian Sewell, told the Petersfield Proust that he was devastated when he saw the sign being cleaned.
“I looked out the window and saw what they were doing, so I ran downstairs and I told them to stop,” he said. “But they insisted it did not suit the character of Petersfield."
Patrick Porridge, the leader of East Hampshire District Council, said the council removed all graffiti regardless of artistic value.
"In 1837 we removed a version of JMW Turner's Grand Canal from a hotel room in the coaching inn that is now Netherregions' Red Lion," he explained. "We have a zero-tolerance policy - there are no exceptions."
Speaking from a secret location, Banksy expressed his disappointment at the council’s decision.
“This was a deeply meaningful piece, with its faux-inept stylings expressing the trauma of being young, drunk, stupid and sexually frustrated in a small market town,” said Banksy. “The council’s staff are philistines, pure and simple."
However, art lovers can take comfort from the fact that Banksy’s other work in the town, a homage to the modernist writer Ritegay, remains visible on the wall of a house at the other end of College Street.