One of Banksy’s most famous paintings, an image of a policeman on his hands and knees snorting the road markings as if they are a line of cocaine has been re-discovered.
Known as the Snorting Copper, the work was created in 2005 and painted over by Hackney Council in 2006. Since then it’s lain hidden away under a layer of paint, something which, however ironic, has actually ended up preserving the piece.
Forgotten about for years, the mural remained hidden on a wall of a disused toilet block on Curtain Road in Shoreditch, only coming to light as the land it was on was snapped up for redevelopment by Hamilton Court Developments. A familiar pattern in Shoreditch these days, the intention was to turn this once derelict slip of land into flats.
Hearing that there might still be a Banksy hidden on one of the old decaying walls, the company arranged for it to be removed and sent up to Cumbria for a painstaking restoration from one of the country’s leading restorers. There brick by brick the paint was removed, eventually uncovering the famous piece.
Hosting the big reveal at a soiree in what will one day be a vestibule of the new building built onto the site. The section of wall, initially wrapped in black plastic was the undoubted star of the show. Silent and unassuming it waited there amongst art aficionados, sipping cocktails and chomping on horderves, eager to see just how well the restoration had been done.
In the end, the result is remarkable! Looking just as it would have done the day it was covered, the section of wall even still includes a tag from a different artist still visible on the top left hand side. The copper himself is of course clearly identifiable, casting a furtive glance, as if been caught in the act. This is classic Banksy with his identifiably black and white single layered stencil style, which once would have been a familiar sight around the streets of Shoreditch.
Recently of course another Banksy has appeared not too far away on Golden Lane close to the Barbican. That piece, a homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, also features a policeman and woman, this time playing stop and search on an image of Basquiat himself. The image is a popular one which Banksy has used a number of times.
A little bit further up the road on Rivington Street in the courtyard of Cargo is another Banksy. That image covered in perspex is of a policeman holding a poodle instead of a labrador and the words ‘designated graffiti area’ stencilled in the background. It’s slightly older, from 2001 but very similar in style to the snorting copper. Then there’s the kissing policemen in Brighton, something that remains a huge draw despite the piece actually being a replica.
So now Shoreditch has another Banksy. The plan is for the snorting copper to be placed back in it’s original position, albeit behind glass but still visible to the public only now incorporated as part of the modern building. The restoration has been nothing short of remarkable and a piece which is a part of graffiti and street art history has been made available again. Who knows though what Banksy himself might think of all the fuss, maybe he doesn’t care or maybe, just maybe, he might just give himself a rye smile that his tongue in cheek satirical stencil from back in the day has found a new lease of life.
Banksy’s Snorting Copper was revealed at 115 Curtain Road on 5 October 2017. It was restored on behalf of Hamilton Court Developments and will form part of the development on the site. The restoration was completed by the ‘Fine Art Restoration Company’ in Cumbria.