THE graffiti by world famous urban artist Banksy on a Torquay hotel wall has been covered over.
The Banksy artwork on the street side wall of The Grosvenor in Belgrave Road — made famous in by TV's The Hotel series and former owner Mark Jenkins— has been boarded over and painted white.
But the hotel's new owners say that the image has been protected for posterity beneath the redecoration job.
It comes as controversy rages over similar works by the underground artist which are being chiselled from walls and auctioned around the world for up to £1million.
The painting originally depicted a child with a paper bag over his head drawing a robot. It appeared in 2010 on the street side wall when former owner Mark Jenkins (pictured) was in charge. In 2012 the mural was defaced - possibly by the artist himself in protest that it had been covered in perspex.
One half of the perspex was removed and the picture of the boy drawing was carefully obliterated with paintstripper, leaving just the childish robot image.
The original image, without the damage, still appears on the front page of Banksy's official website www.banksy.co.uk.
The Grosvenor was bought by Keith Richardson, who also owns the four star Grand Hotel on Torquay seafront last October.
General manager Rebecca Snowball said the image has been safely preserved. She said: "The decorating team has preserved the Banksy.
"It has been boarded over and they have painted over the cover. It has been kept safely behind.
"It had already been damaged when somebody threw acid over it a while ago.
"But we are redecorating the whole building and they were unsure about the best thing to do about the Banksy."
The hotel's former owner Mark Jenkins, who became a TV personality, spent £700 to protect the Banksy after he took ownership of the £1.5million hotel.
He said at the time of the vandalism: "It looks like I've lost not only £700 in protecting the work but the £150,000 I'm told it was worth."
Throughout August an urban art exhibition, including work by Banksy, has drawn thousands of visitors to Hannah's at Seale Hayne, outside Newton Abbot.
Matt Newbury, press officer at Hannah's said: "My own personal reaction would be that street art is supposed to be very temporary and transient. To frame it in perspex is pretty ridiculous which is probably why somebody vandalised it."
One theory at the time was that Banksy himself tore off the perspex and obliterated half of his own work in protest at claims that it had added £150,000 to the hotel's value.
Mr Newbury said: "When people start getting greedy and framing street art and trying to sell it around the world, that's getting ridiculous.
"Urban art is when people create something that is witty and intelligent and makes a political statement.
"We have had more than 7,000 people coming to Hannah's to see Summer of Art — The Urban Takeover."