Hours after the reindeer mural appeared in the city’s Jewellery Quarter on Monday (9 December), an unidentified man added red noses to the artwork.
According to onlooker Darren Hawkins, the “sketchy” vandal ”threatened” to deface the mysterious artist’s mural “for ages” before proceeding.
“They had police there in the day and they’d barricaded it [so they could] protect it, but when I turned up, I spoke to this guy, who said, ‘I’m going to tag it,' Hawkins said. "He was trying to get egged on.”
Hawkins, who is the editor of The Unseen Scene magazine, said the crowd assembled around the mural tried to discourage him from vandalising the art.
“[We] told him ‘Don’t be silly.’ Everyone thought he was probably joking. But he went through the barricade and literally 30 seconds later, he’d sprayed red noses onto both of [the reindeers] very quickly.”
Hawkins, who also works in PR for Cora and Spink backpacks, explained that an anonymous woman “confronted” the vandal.
“[She] said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you defacing this art?’ He’s then gone off into the night. The girl who tried to stop him then tried to rub off the red paint, so now one has a brighter red nose than the second.
“I hung around for a good two or three hours watching people come and see it. Unless you were there, you probably wouldn’t know.”
The mural has since been covered in protective perspex.
Banksy revealed the artwork in a video posted to his Instagram page. it showed a homeless man named Ryan having a drink before settling down on a bench with his belongings. yyyy
As the camera pans outwards, a pair of reindeers can be seen painted next to the bench, appearing to carry him away into the star-filled sky.
The caption with the video reads: “In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter – without him ever asking for anything.”
Last month, one of Banksy’s 2008 murals was uncovered in Notting Hill.
The artwork – depicting an artist with an easel writing “Banksy” in big red letters – had been obscured by scaffolding on the corner of Acklam and Portobello Road since 2008.