A Banksy artwork that was dismantled by a council in Kent “on the grounds of safety” just hours after its unveiling has had its chest freezer returned.
The mural, titled Valentine’s Day Mascara, appeared to highlight the issue of domestic violence. It incorporated a freezer, a broken garden chair, a blue crate and an empty beer bottle, which were all removed from the site on Tuesday.
The painting on the side of a building shows a 1950s housewife wearing a classic blue apron and yellow washing-up gloves. She has a swollen eye and a missing tooth and appears to have shoved her male partner into the chest freezer.
The local authority in Margate said it had returned the freezer after making it safe for the public, adding it was in contact with the property owner to discuss ways to preserve the piece.
A spokesperson for Thanet district council said: “The freezer, which council operatives removed from the Banksy installation in Margate, has now been made safe. It has been returned to its original position at the site of the artwork today.
“The council has a duty to ensure the ongoing safety of the public; it was necessary to carry out works to the freezer for health and safety reasons.
“Banksy raises the important issue of domestic abuse in this artwork. We are in touch with the owner of the property to understand their intentions around the preservation of the piece and to secure the best possible outcome for the local community and victims of domestic abuse.”
The anonymous street artist confirmed they were behind the artwork by sharing a series of photos of the piece on their Instagram account on Tuesday.
Prior to the council returning the freezer, the North Thanet MP, Sir Roger Gale, called the council’s decision to dismantle the artwork “heavy-handed”.
Gale, whose constituency includes Margate, told the PA news agency: “I think it’s an extremely impressive and extremely clever piece of art. And I hope and believe that it can and it should be preserved and displayed safely so that as many people as possible can see it.
“If you’ve got something as potentially dangerous as a chest freezer into which a child could climb and suffocate, you actually can’t responsibly just leave it,” he added. “You have to do something about it to make it safe.”
The resident of the property where the painting was created, who asked not to be named, told PA that her landlady had tried to send people to guard the artwork but they were unable to do so before the pieces were removed.
Banksy has recently undertaken philanthropic projects for Ukraine. In December, the artist announced they had created 50 screen-prints that would be sold to raise funds for a charity supporting the people of Ukraine.
The artist previously said they spent time in the country during the Russian invasion after posting a video of an artist spray-painting designs and speaking to locals.