Less than a week after it appeared on the former bank building at 101 West 14th Street, Banksy’s first work in New York for five years has been removed.

On Tuesday afternoon, workers could be seen carefully removing the clock-face adorned with one of Banksy’s trademark rats running around the interior circumference from the structure.

Commercial real estate developer Gemini Rosemont confirmed it had ordered the work to be removed ahead of the building’s scheduled demolition. The firm said they were examining all their options before making a decision on what to do with the piece, and whether it should be added to the new 13-story mixed-use building that is due to be built on the site.

Five years ago, Banksy surprised New York residents by taking advantage of the concrete jungle with a month-long residency entitled Better Out Than In, when he displayed and sold some of his art projects around the city. Last week, he returned to the Big Apple with the new piece of a rat using the clock-face as an exercise wheel.

In his customary style, the elusive graffiti artists announced his latest work on his Instagram account with no comment, explanation, or location.

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

However, fans were quick to spot that it could be seen on the old HSBC building and share their ideas for the meaning behind the piece, with guesses ranging from a critique on the “rat race” of modern corporate culture, to a comment about the #TimesUp movement against sexual harassment.

Since his New York residency, Banksy has focused his time on projects in the UK and West Bank, but this latest piece has New York residents excited that it might be the first of a new series by the secretive artist.

Banksy has amassed millions of fans across the world, but he is not without his detractors. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign has accused the artist of glorifying vandalism with spray cans and Molotow markers, while Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker described his work as “imbecilic daubings” that look “dazzlingly clever to idiots”.

However, the artist’s works are more popular than ever. Earlier this month, a limited edition canvas of Banksy’s iconic 2002 design ‘Girl and Balloon’ smashed its auction estimate by selling for a record-breaking £345,000. Gareth Williams, director of post-war and contemporary art at Bonhams auction house commented: “This result was remarkable because of the interest from around the globe. We had 15 bidders vying to acquire this work, including four who were in the room.

“In the event, the painting was sold to someone who was in the room.

“Recently we have seen Banksy’s appeal surge. And this has been reflected in the prices achieved in our saleroom”.

The work, featuring a stencil of a young girl releasing a bright red heart-shaped balloon, beat paintings by Constable, Vettriano, and Turner to be named Britain’s favourite artwork in a poll last year.

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