UK

Banksy Mobile Lovers Mural Removed From Bristol Doorway

15/04/2014 18:49 BST | Updated 16/04/2014 12:59 BST

A Banksy artwork has been removed from the wall it was screwed to - just hours after it was tracked to a location in Bristol.

Mobile Lovers was posted to the celebrated street artist's website on Monday but its whereabouts were not disclosed.

However the location was identified on Tuesday as Clement Street, within sight of the city's bustling centre.

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Mobile Lovers before the crowbars arrived

Photographers and news crews arrived in the early afternoon to capture the image, which was painted onto a black piece of wood screwed onto a wall.

But at 4pm, a group of men from the financially struggling Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project - situated just beside the piece - used crowbars to remove it.

Bristol City Council said they were not '100% sure of the ownership' of the wall Mobile Lovers was attached to.

However, Dennis Stinchcombe MBE, 58, leader of the youth project, said he had been urged to take the piece by a friend of Banksy.

"I was approached by somebody who knows Banksy very well," Mr Stinchcombe said.

"He's an artist himself and he said 'you need to take that Dennis, get it into that club - it's what it is meant for'.

"Banksy never does his street art on pieces of wood - they are always on walls so they can't be taken away.

"We need £120,000 to keep going and our fundraising appeal has so far only brought a few thousand pounds.

"Now we've ended up with a Banksy on our doorstep. It is a dream come true. I'm absolutely buzzing."

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The sign that greeted art lovers on Tuesday

Mr Stinchcombe, who has been working at the youth club for the past 40 years, spotted the piece at 9.15 yesterday.

He did not believe it was an authentic Banksy until a friend pointed out that it had been confirmed on the artist's website later that day.

The youth club, which has been operating in Bristol for the past 120 years, is attended by 1,000 young people in the city each month.

Mr Stinchcombe said he had guarded the piece until this afternoon, when he received the tip off from the unnamed man.

"We have taken it off the wall carefully, it isn't damaged at all," he added.

"If anyone wants to see it they can come in here and put a donation in the box if they feel like it.

"If we hadn't taken it, someone would have ripped it from the wall or vandalised it."

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Bristol's newest art gallery - the Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project

The discovery of Mobile Lovers comes days after a piece depicting three 1950s-style agents listening in on conversations in a telephone box appeared on a house in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Website streetartnews described the Bristol piece as "brilliant".

"As usual with the British street artist, it's yet another epic stencil showing a lovely embracing couple being hypnotised by their mobile phones," the website said.

Mobile Lovers sits on a painted black wooden panel set into a stone wall and depicts two lovers embracing, while checking their mobile phones.

The piece looks out onto the A4032, the busy main road leading into Bristol from the M32 motorway.

Speaking before the piece was removed, George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol said: "It's good to see another witty Banksy raid on his home city - respectfully painted in a blocked up doorway.

"He is part of what gives Bristol its artistic, creative and subversive spirit which makes us such a sparky place.

"I hope it will be respected and protected as we would want for any other legitimate work of street art."

A sign appeared on the boarded up doorway stating: "NOTICE: The new Banksy piece is being held by our club to prevent any vandalism being done.

"You are free to come and view but a small donation will be asked of you. Thanks."

Visitors were stunned to discover the sign and the piece locked inside the youth centre.

Rachel Dean, 22, puzzles compiler, said: "It is a real shame because it ruins it. It was on a door, it was supposed to be seen. The whole point of street art is that it's there."

Laura Pique, 21, fine arts student at UWE Bristol said: "If it was my door I wouldn't be happy that it had been taken.

"I decided to come down here to see it and now it's gone. I'm really surprised. Street art is on the streets, you shouldn't have to pay for it."