Man Accused of Vandalizing Banksy Images

David William Noll Accused of Painting Over Murals

Protective glass covering this Banksy painting in Park City, Utah, was smashed on New Year’s Eve. Jay Hamburger/Park Record
When is graffiti scrawled on a wall considered art and when is it a crime?

That question has come up in Park City, Utah, where two images spray-painted by renowned street artist Banksy were allegedly defaced by another man, who had been charged on April 8 with a second-degree felony for the act.

“It’s not every day I get to prosecute somebody for vandalizing graffiti,” said Matthew Bates, the lead prosecutor in the case.

Third District Court Judge Todd Shaughnessy this week issued a warrant for David William Noll after he failed to appear for a court hearing. Mr. Noll was charged with one count of criminal mischief after he allegedly vandalized two Banksy murals along the city’s main street on New Year’s Eve. Police say they have plenty of evidence: videos posted on YouTube of Mr. Noll painting over Banksy’s work.

Banksy, an enigmatic British street artist, is famous for his spray-painted stencil art, often accompanied with a political message, and his works have netted price tags that rival traditional works of art, including “Keep It Spotless,” a piece that sold for $1.87 million in 2008. Perhaps ironically, that work is a Damien Hirst painting tagged by Banksy, although in collaboration with Mr. Hirst.

Building owners are often angered when they discover graffiti marring their property. But in Park City, property owners whose buildings have been tagged have spent thousands of dollars preserving them. Both appeared while Banksy was in town during the Sundance Festival in 2010 for his documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop.”

Ken Davis, the owner a coffee shop where Banksy stenciled an image of a videographer filming a flower, shelled out $1,500 for bulletproof and glare-free glass to protect it, and hired a local blacksmith to forge a custom-made frame. That glass was allegedly shattered by Mr. Noll, Mr. Davis said, but the work underneath was saved.
Two Banksy pieces were vandalized in Park City, Utah, and a man is charged with a second-degree felony. Jay Hamburger/Park Record
Another Banksy image, a silhouette of a boy kneeling and praying, was defaced with dark brown paint after the glass protecting it also was smashed, said Jim Tozer, the owner of the building where the painting resides.

“There is no way you could consider what Noll did as graffiti art…it could only be describe as wanton destruction of a small piece of Park City’s heritage driven by jealous rage,” said Mr. Tozer.

Messages left with Mr. Noll’s lawyer were not returned. In an interview with a California television station in April, Mr. Noll said he thinks certain graffiti is fine if it’s commissioned. He said he can’t support it if it is done illegally.

What “Banksy does at the moment he does it may be graffiti,” the prosecutor, Mr. Bates, said, but his world reputation often ensures that it becomes a treasured attraction.

The criminal mischief charge facing Mr. Noll is punishable with a fine up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison, Mr. Bates said. A plea deal is in the works, he said. A hearing has been set for Sept. 15.

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