A new mural by Banksy about domestic violence, titled Valentine’s Day Mascara, was recently found on February 14 in the coastal British town of Margate in Kent.
The mural features a 1950s-style housewife with a swollen, black eye, bruised cheek, a swollen lower lip, and a knocked-out tooth. She wears a bright blue gingham dress, an apron, and yellow latex gloves, and has her arms out.
She was initially shown standing next to an open chest freezer and an upturned plastic lawn chair. The woman appeared to have disposed of an abusive male partner. Only the man’s pant cuffs, black socks, and black dress shoes could be seen poking out of the appliance.
A few hours after the artist confirmed the work was genuine on Instagram, local workers from the Thanet district council took it apart by removing the chest freezer. In an online statement, the council said that while the mural was on the wall of a privately owned property, the freezer was on public land and removed for safety reasons.
“The fridge freezer is now in storage and will be returned once it has been made safe to the public. We will be contacting the owner of the property to discuss the options to preserve the artwork for the district.”
Images of the mural, including closeups of the housewife’s face, were also posted to Banksy’s Instagram account on Valentine’s Day. Banksy has 11.8 million followers on the social media platform.
The issue of domestic abuse featured in Banksy’s newest mural became a global concern after several countries reported spikes in violence against women and girls due to lockdowns during the pandemic. A policy brief from the United Nations in 2020 found increased cases of domestic violence and demand for emergency shelter in Canada, the US, Germany, Spain, and the UK. A UN Women’s report published in November 2021 called it a “shadow pandemic,” finding that “more than half of women surveyed reported that they or a woman they know experienced physical violence and verbal abuse since the onset of COVID-19.”
According to Isle of Thanet News, Banksy had previously visited the town of Margate in November 2013 to see the amusement park Dreamland after it shifted to public ownership. The park is also featured in the autobiography of British visual artist Tracey Emin, Strangeland, which documents her experience with childhood sexual abuse.
Banksy left a signed tag on Dreamland’s comment wall and would create the large art project Dismaland in 2015. The mock theme park in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset featured work by 50 international artists, including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and David Shrigley.