Ajax Systems, a Ukrainian-founded international security company, has installed high-tech systems to ensure round-the-clock protection of four murals created by secretive artist Banksy in the Kyiv region, which are among seven that he created on buildings in the war-torn country last year as a statement of support for Ukrainians’ resilience against Russia’s invasion.
The company installed the systems, which include shockproof glass and alarms, after an attempt last December to steal a mural depicting a woman in a gas mask in Hostomel, a Kyiv suburb that was central to staving off Russian forces in the first days of the invasion.
A spokesperson for Ajax said in a statement on 22 February, just two days before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, that the project “was developed by the initiative of the Kyiv regional military administration and local administration”.
Oleh Torkunov, the deputy head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, says: “Banksy’s works have cultural and historical value for the country as a reminder that light will win over darkness. It is important to resist possible vandalism attempts that have already happened.”
Heorhii Yerko is the acting head of the village council of Borodyanka, a suburb of Kyiv that lived through Russian occupation in March 2022 and is now home to one of the most iconic images created by Banksy, of a gymnast doing a handstand on the remains of a bombed building.
“These art objects are war artefacts that we must preserve for Ukrainians,” Yerko said in a statement released by Ajax, which describes logistical and technical details of the systems. Similar equipment was also installed to protect Banksy murals in Irpin and Horenka, both in the Bucha district where Russian forces committed atrocities.
The works are now “protected against potential vandalism and weather conditions”, with round-the-clock monitoring and rapid response by a security company called Sheriff, “until delivered to the museum”, the statement adds, though it does not specify which museum.
Technical features of the security systems include motion detectors and built-in shock and vibration sensors as well as transparent polycarbonate barriers. The image in Borodyanka of a young boy in a judo uniform throwing a man who resembles Vladimir Putin also includes “a temporary protective structure with the LifeQuality smart air quality monitor inside” and a WallSwitch relay that “helps maintain the microclimate conditions to keep the painting safe”, a company spokesperson stated. Ukrposhta, Ukraine’s postal operator, released a stamp with the judo image on 24 February to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Amina Yepisheva, a spokesperson for Ajax Systems, says the company “didn’t personally contact Banksy during this project”, which cost “more than half a million hryvnias” (around $13,500), all covered by the company.
"Usually, street art does not require protection,” Valentine Hrytsenko, the chief marketing officer at Ajax Systems, tells The Art Newspaper. “But the war makes its adjustments,” not least that the ruined buildings might collapse at any moment. “For Ukrainians, Banksy's murals are a symbol of invincibility,” he adds, with “an essential message which we want to capture for our future generations”.
In the absence of tourism, the murals also draw an international audience of “journalists, volunteers and people from various countries” who make a point of seeing “the famous graffiti”, Hrytsenko adds. The murals “are a major symbol of resistance, important for the whole world” and “we want to protect them”.