AFTER thieves attempted to steal one of Banksy’s priceless artworks painted on bombed buildings across Ukraine, new security measures were put in place to preserve the murals.
A dancing ballerina in Irpin, an old man bathing in Horenka and a judo-smashing child in Borodyanka on Putin – Banksy’s playful artworks amidst the ruins of Ukrainian cities now find shelter behind glass walls.
World-renowned graffiti artist Banksy traveled to the war-ravaged country last November and stenciled his usual subversive and humorous artworks onto shell-damaged buildings in Ukraine.
He created six artworks in Kyiv and other cities, towns and villages, including many women and children as symbols of the Ukrainian resistance, and said his work was done in “solidarity” with their plight.
For months, while buildings were steadily rebuilt and streets cleared or rubble cleared, all of the art was preserved and untouched with the help of local people, save for one.
The mural of a woman in curlers, a gas mask and a fire extinguisher on a burned-out building in Hostomel was chiseled off the wall by robbers in December.
A local resident saw the crime and called the police, leading to the arrest of all five men. The art was saved in good condition and is now locked away in a police station.
The attempted raid sparked serious discussions about the safety of the murals, and now the government stepped in to begin more serious plans to preserve them for their nation’s future.
“We believe that this is a newly discovered cultural and historical heritage,” said deputy head of the regional military administration in Kyiv Oleh Torkunov.
“Every single Banksy work should remain on the site as it is in its original form,” he told EuroNews.
Local authorities hope to keep all of the art in its current locations and plan to rebuild the destroyed buildings around them, which will be difficult as some of the buildings are due to be demolished.
Meanwhile, new protections are being deployed in the form of glass cages and some have already been treated with sensors and cameras to further keep would-be thieves at bay.
“In places where it’s much easier to get to, there’s an additional sensor under the glass that reacts if someone tries to hit or break it,” Valentyn Hrytsenko, a representative of the security company in charge of the job, told EuroNews.
“And on the opposite side is another sensor that takes a picture. When my colleagues got the alarm, they immediately saw that there were people near the painting.”
In Irpin, Banksy stenciled his dancing ballerina onto a hollowed-out building, and the city council made the street performer an honorary citizen.
Elsewhere, a gymnast balances on the ruins of a building while children play on a seesaw made from an anti-tank obstacle in Kiev – the stencils become a symbol of hope and defiance, painted onto ephemeral surfaces at a time of utter devastation and destruction.
Banksy’s video of his art mission showed a child and his mother staring at the mural depicting Putin being beaten by a child in a judo match.
“There was a bomb here and many people died,” said the local resident.
“My kid used to go to this kindergarten… We’ve cried a lot, I’ve run out of tears,” she said, staring at the work, which acts as a memorial to her pain.
Horenka resident Volodymyr Budnichenko, looking at the mural of elderly gentlemen in the bathroom, told EuroNews: “Leave it here.”
The 72-year-old Ukrainian added: “People are sitting here and looking at them. Leave her alone.
“It won’t be long before this house is restored. Nobody tells us anything about whether they will do anything with it. So leave it [the artwork] to be there.”