Banksy Tree Mural That Sprouted In London Is Fenced Off After Apparent Vandalism

LONDON (AP) — It was nice while it lasted.

An environmentally themed mural by elusive street artist Banksy that appeared last week on a London street has been encased in plastic and surrounded by fencing after an apparent act of vandalism.

The work is on a four-story wall near a public housing project. Beside a real and severely pruned cherry tree, the artist stenciled a small figure holding a pressure hose. Swathes of green paint across the wall stand in for the tree's absent leaves.

The work quickly attracted crowds including Banksy fans from around the world. Two days later, it was splashed with white paint.

The mural was then covered in transparent plastic by the building's owner, and a sign appeared saying the area was under video surveillance.

On Wednesday, workers began to erect wooden boards around the site.

The local authority, Islington Council, said it was fencing off the site to protect the art and residents from the impact of visitors.

“We’ve had a lot of concerns from our residents about disruption from the numbers of visitors to the artwork, which is right outside their homes,” the council said in a statement. It said the fencing would include clear plastic panels "to protect the artwork and allow clear views.”

Banksy, who has never confirmed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists.

His work has sold for millions of dollars at auction, and past murals on outdoor sites have often been stolen or removed by building owners soon after going up. In December, after Banksy stenciled military drones on a stop sign in south London, a man was photographed taking down the sign with bolt cutters. Police later arrested two men on suspicion of theft and criminal damage.

The latest work would be harder to take down since the piece relies on the tree for its impact.

Islington Council said it would monitor the site and "continue to explore future solutions with the building owner so people can enjoy the artwork.”