(Photographs by Instagram users: aymanndotcom, lostkaws, thecatspajamass, hragv, varguhsvarga, djpaulmarco, markmasefield, jillianquitko and jilnotjill who all have many more photos of the action on their Instagrams if interested.)
This morning shortly after I posted Banksy’s final piece, which consisted of actual balloons of letters spelling his name that harkened back to the beginnings of graffiti writing, for his month long residency of New York City entitled “Better Out Than In” where he has created a new work of art for each day - except one - I began to live-tweet (Follow Supersonic’s Twitter if you don’t already, I post there all day, every day) a situation that was unfolding on Instagram: Three men were in the process of stealing the piece which was tethered to the building with rope.
The piece itself was put up this morning around 6:30 AM EST by three men in reflective vests and prior to Banksy’s post on his Instagram around 10:30 AM EST no images of the piece appeared online (even though several news outlets that have been covering Banksy claimed they were tipped off to it). There were rumors that a piece in the Financial District of Manhattan was a Banksy but looking at it I instantly got a feeling that it was not a true Banksy and waited patiently for the real thing.
Maybe it had to do with the month being over or the fact that it’s Halloween but after Banksy revealed the piece and the consequential crowd forming at the location a strange scene began to unfurl, the wildest of the entire residency.
A young man - possibly a local graffiti writer - in a grey shirt had made his way up to the scaffold under the piece. He began to cut the string with a small hatchet but was unable to get to the strings at the top. According to evidence on Instagram the young man was there for quite some time, moping around, not really sure how to proceed. No one else went up after him and other than screams to stop nothing was done.
Eventually two other men arrived with a ladder which eventually made it’s way up to the scaffolding itself with the help of a man wearing a blue shirt pulling it up with the man in grey. It was almost like something out of a idiot criminals film as the three argued and discussed what they were doing. A seemingly simple task since no one was trying to stop them, it took them nearly 30 minutes. The police were called at this point.
Any humor that remained from the mopey criminal soon dissipated as the final string was cut and the man began to run with the balloons to his left towards a parked moving truck (which was his original way of getting on the scaffolding). The crowd of spectators rushed along with him and as he jumped to the ground a gentleman - later identified as a man named Malcolm - tackled him and punched him in the face ultimately stopping his get away.
At this same exact moment the police arrived and grabbed the man in grey who was still holding onto the Banksy piece. He told the man to put the balloons down and the man in grey replied “they’re mine” which the crowd quickly corrected him on. None of the policemen seemed to realize or know who Banksy was or what was happening but after several minutes of talking to both the man in grey, who asked for a lawyer, and the man in blue (he came down right after the man in grey did, in the same fashion) were put into a squad car.
The man in grey was asked questions by reporters on his way to the car and his replies varied from “I was told to do it” to a sense of pride in his actions, “I would have put it in my apartment.”
Malcolm, the man that stopped the thief.
The police, as I’ve mentioned, didn’t seem to realize they now had in their possession something worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and stuffed the balloons carelessly into the the back of a police van.
It’s hard not to picture it as Banksy himself being put into that van, being driven away to the unknown. All that remains where the Banksy balloons were is a ladder to nothing.
Sources: Instagram users above, Gothamist, Animal New York and Hyperallergic.