With face masks now mandatory on public transport (and soon in shops) in the UK, they're fast becoming one of the most ubiquitous aspects of our 'new normal'. And now, the enigmatic street artist Banksy has taken to the London Underground with a simple but ingenious satirical message: "If you don't mask, you don't get".
In a video posted to Instagram (below), Banksy himself (!) can be seen stencilling several of his famous rats inside a London Underground carriage, with one sneezing a blue liquid and another using a face mask as a parachute. Not got your face covering yet? Here's where to buy a face mask in the UK.
The video shows Banksy, dressed as a London Underground cleaner, ushering away various (rather perplexed) fellow passengers before getting to work stencilling the rats. At the end, the phrase "I get lockdown" appears on an underground tunnel, before the carriage doors close to reveal the words "but I get up again", with Cumbawamba's 1997 hit Tubthumping kicking in.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the video, though, is that it features the notoriously elusive artist himself. Unfortunately, Banksy's disguise leaves him almost entirely covered – pretty much all we can glean from the video is that he has a pair of eyes – and even those are behind goggles. Not hugely revealing, then.
Where to buy a face mask in the UK: quick links
- Etsy.co.uk (opens in new tab) – artist face masks from just £3.99
- ASOS (opens in new tab) – fashionable designs at low prices
- Vistaprint (opens in new tab) – quality, stylish face masks for kids and adults from £13
- Ebay.co.uk (opens in new tab) – washable face masks at a bargain price
Unsurprisingly, it seems Banksy did not collaborate with Transport for London (TFL) on the artwork. However, according to the BBC (opens in new tab), TFL did appreciate "the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings" (check out our guide to how to make a face mask if you fancy getting creative).
Sadly, the art was quickly removed from the carriage. "The work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy," TFL said. "We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location."
Speaking of suitable locations, Banksy hasn't let lockdown dampen his work ethic – back in April he revealed another pandemic-themed artwork (also featuring rats) inside his own bathroom. If, like Banksy, you've been learning to WFH, check out our guide to working from home like a pro.