'Superhero' health workers hailed in new Banksy painting

"Thanks for all you're doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white," a note from the elusive artist reads.

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By Isobel van Hagen

LONDON — The largely black and white painting shows a child holding aloft a doll in a superhero cape and an apron with a red cross. The toy nurse's right fist thrusts forward in a flying Superman pose.

Banksy’s latest piece, which went on display at Southampton General Hospital in the south of England on Wednesday, marks the spirit of gratitude for healthcare workers that has swept across Britain during the coronavirus pandemic.

The elusive artist captioned the piece "Game Changer" on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

. . Game Changer

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

The street artist also left a note for hospital workers, which read, "Thanks for all you're doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white," according to Sky News.

"This is unreal," tweeted Daniel Winter Bates, a manager at the hospital. "At times we may not feel heroic but we can redefine the true meaning."

The painting is not the first Banksy work inspired by the pandemic. Last month, he posted scenes of stenciled rats wreaking havoc in a bathroom with by the caption: “My wife hates it when I work from home.”

His existing “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum” mural was also updated with the additional blue surgical mask. It is not known, however, whether Banksy — whose identity is a closely guarded secret — attached the face mask to the painting.

While Banksy is famous for his $1.4 million self-destructing canvas, he is also known for his political statements. His work has criticized anti-migrant attitudes and examined the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The new painting will be on display at the hospital until after the lockdown and it will then be auctioned for National Health Service charities, according to Reuters.

The new piece comes as the U.K. government faces criticism from health workers over a lack of sufficient protective gear, as well as complaints surrounding low levels of virus testing. The U.K. has reported more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, and new data suggests the country has the highest death toll in Europe.

Meanwhile, gestures of appreciation for the National Health Service have swelled. Since the beginning of lockdown measures some two months ago, every Thursday at 8 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) Britons have stood on their front steps, balconies and windows to clap, whoop and bang pots in support of health workers on the frontlines fighting the virus.