Banksy Goes Undercover as London Underground Cleaner for Latest Project

Notorious street artist Banksy shared a new video on Instagram on Tuesday, showing that he went undercover as a sanitation worker for the London Underground to complete his latest coronavirus-themed piece.

The clip opens with the anonymous artist watching a video from the U.K. outlet Evening Standard titled, "London underground trains deep cleaned 'every few days' as coronavirus lockdown eases." That piece shows people in full-on protective gear working to sanitize train cars in London's tube amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Banksy's clip then cuts to Banksy dressed in a similar outfit to the sanitation workers, spraying stenciled rats on various windows, walls and doors on a train car. Besides his typical spray-paint cans, the artist can also be seen using an industrial-grade cleaning spray bottle—similar to what the workers have been using to clean the subways—to get a splatter effect for some of the designs, such as one of a rat sneezing.

In the Instagram clip, the mysterious graffiti artist paints multiple rats as a way to comment on how people need to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Besides rats sneezing, Banksy is also seen painting rats with masks seemingly dropped on them and rats using masks as parachutes. One of the final shots, which has also become the homepage image for Banksy's website, shows a rat hanging by its tail while holding a bottle of sanitizer, as if it's the one who wrote Banksy's name in dripping blue paint nearby.

"If you don't mask - you don't get," the artist cryptically wrote in the video's caption. The caption seemingly alludes to the video's end, in which the 1997 song "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba plays. We see "I get lockdown" written on a wall in a tube station, and then, "But I get up again," written on the closed train doors It's a reference to the famous "Tubthumping" lyric: "I get knocked down, but I get up again."

Newsweek reached out to Banksy via direct message on Instagram, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

This, of course, isn't Banksy's first work with rats—they're a recurring theme in his work—nor is it his first piece responding to the coronavirus pandemic. In an Instagram post on April 15, the artist wrote that he was working from home and showed off similarly stenciled rats all over a bathroom. In May, he paid tribute to health care workers by painting a boy, holding up a nurse action figure like a superhero, while Batman and Spider-Man figures are in his trash can.

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. . Game Changer

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. . My wife hates it when I work from home.

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According to The Los Angeles Times, the picture honoring nurses was given as a gift to Southampton General Hospital in the U.K. Banksy shared his hope that it brings some light to healthcare workers' days battling the virus. In an accompanying message, he wrote, "Thanks for all you're doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if [it's] only black and white."

The graffiti artwork by Banksy named 'Girl with a Pierced Eardrum' is seen with a protective face mask at Hannover Place on April 27, 2020 in Bristol, England. Getty/Dan Mullan
Banksy Goes Undercover as London Underground Cleaner for Latest Project | Culture