National

Banksy does Tokyo? Officials check if years-old graffiti is work of legendary British street artist

AFP-JIJI

Officials are trying to verify if a drawing of a rat holding an umbrella, spray painted near a monorail station in central Tokyo, is the work of the famous and mysterious British street artist Banksy.

“We noticed there is a drawing of a rat spray painted” on the door near Hinode Station on the Yurikamome Line in central Tokyo, government official Koji Sugiyama said. “We think there’s a possibility it has been done by Banksy.”

An image of a rat holding an umbrella is one of Banksy’s most famous artworks.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike posted photos of the painting on Twitter, saying, “There’s a painting of cute rat in Tokyo which could be Banksy’s work! A gift to Tokyo?”

City maintenance workers removed the door, which was installed to prevent flooding during high tides, and placed it in storage Wednesday night to prevent any damage, Sugiyama said.

It is unclear exactly when the work was painted, but the Public Safety Bureau has known about the graffiti for a long time, he added.

There are photos on social media that appear to show the same painting, which date back several years.

But it was only in December that the government realized it could have been created by Banksy, after local residents contacted them, the official said.

The government hopes to find out if it is truly a work by Banksy, but “we still don’t know if there’s an expert in Japan,” Sugiyama admitted, adding that the government will discuss ways to verify who made it.

Banksy, whose true identity is known to only a handful of friends, caused a sensation last October when one of his paintings began shredding itself just after selling for $1.4 million (€1.2 million) at Sotheby’s auctioneers in London.

Experts say the “Girl with Balloon,” which is now called “Love is in the Bin,” is probably worth even more because the stunt created such a massive media stir.