The London Underground was briefly taken over by rats, the kind painted by Banksy that is. His latest artwork was inspired by the coronavirus pandemic and the urge for everyone to wear face masks, but it was immediately taken down due to the London Underground's no graffiti policy.

The artist Banksy is back for some politically charged street art, this time taking the work to the London Underground. Normally one would expect the occasional rat in a subway station, but this time they’re wearing face masks too. 

The anonymous English-based street artist is known for combining art with political commentary, and typically doing so in a dark humor type way. Like a rioter throwing flowers instead of a weapon, two male police officers kissing, or a mural saying “One Nation Under CCTV”

In the wake of the global COVID-19 crisis, Banksy is using his talents and elusiveness to quietly make a demonstration in the London subways stations. 

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. . If you don’t mask – you don’t get.

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Assuming the artist in the video is Banksy himself, he disguised himself in the PPE of a sanitation worker and used his opportunity to spray paint rats sneezing, wearing masks, or using a mask as a parachute. The normal stuff of course.

He even drew reference to British rock band Chumbawumba’s lyrics, “I get knocked down, but I get up again” with the rephrase “I get lockdown, but I get up again” on the inside of train doors.

But the thing is, by the time the artwork was revealed online, it had been wiped away by actual sanitation workers who didn’t know the value of the art. Transport for London has a “strict anti-graffiti policy,” meaning that there are constantly people patrolling the cars to keep them clean from street art and in recent months more importantly, clean from coronavirus. 

Which in light of things, I suppose is a good thing because it shows that the cars are cleaned regularly!

Transport for London released a statement saying that “We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings, which the vast majority of customers on our transport network are doing. And, “In this particular case, the work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy.” But then they further extended the invitation for art, saying, “We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.”

This isn’t Banksy’s first coronavirus related piece though, and naturally there have been others given the magnitude of the whole pandemic.

Back in May, Banksy unveiled an artwork titled “Game Changer,” featuring a child playing with a nurse doll wearing a mask and cape, to honor health care workers.

This also raises the question about other street artists, what makes Banksy the best? Because he’s the most well-known? Because he’s white? A few people on Twitter had something to say about that.

Maybe London missed an opportunity to sell this work and make some big bucks, or maybe they’re protesting using public transportation as an art canvas, but they are definitely on top of their subway cleaning which is a good thing for all people in London.