British neighborhood wants to get its Banksy back
LONDON — A London neighborhood wants its Banksy back.
A stencil by the famed but secretive graffiti artist of a young boy sewing Union Jack bunting on an antique sewing machine appeared on the side of a north London bargain store last May. Soon the gritty Turnpike Lane area was drawing art lovers keen to see Banksy's typically cheeky take on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the British throne.
Last week it vanished, leaving nothing but a rectangle of exposed brick - only to reappear on the website of a Miami auction house. Listed as "Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)," it is due to be sold Saturday with an estimated price of between $500,000 and $700,000.
London authorities concede the sale is probably legal - the mural was on private property. But they hope moral pressure will make the auction house change its mind.
"(It's) totally unethical that something so valued should be torn without warning from its community context," local lawmaker Lynne Featherstone said.
Featherstone said she had asked the building's owner for an explanation, but had yet to receive a reply. Poundland, the store that occupies the building, said it had nothing to do with the removal.
On Wednesday, the local government authority appealed to the auctioneer for the return of the work.
In an open letter to auction house chief Frederic Thut, Haringey Council called the artwork "a much-loved local landmark" that had been visited by people from around the world.
"We understand that there may be nothing illegal in the way this artwork was quietly removed from our streets and put up for auction by you in Miami," the letter said.
"But for you to allow it to be sold for huge profit in this way would be morally wrong, and completely contrary to the spirit in which we believe it was given to our community."
Councilor Alan Strickland said the work had become "a real symbol of local pride" in an area badly hit in England's August 2011 riots. He said its disappearance had left residents "shocked and angry."
Strickland said he had asked England's Arts Council for help retrieving the work.
The government-funded council called the loss of the Banksy "a shame," but said there was little it could do. The council has the power to stop the export of culturally significant artworks, but only if they are more than 50 years old.
Fine Art Auctions Miami said it had acquired the work legally, but gave few other details. It said in a statement that it had "done all the necessary due diligence about the ownership of the work."
"Unfortunately we are not able to provide you with any information by law and contract about any details of this consignment," it said. "We are more than happy to do so if you can prove that the works were acquired and removed illegally."
Banksy's publicist did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The anonymous street artist, who refuses to reveal his real name, began his career spray-painting buildings and bridges in his home city of Bristol in southwest England. His often satirical images include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words "Laugh now, but one day I'll be in charge."
Original Banksy works now sell for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and the artist has become an international celebrity. He has created sequences for "The Simpsons" and directed an Academy Award-nominated documentary, "Exit Through the Gift Shop."
His works are still sometimes obliterated by zealous local officials, street cleaners or - as in this case - taken off buildings along with a chunk of wall for private sale.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- Crosby understands rule prohibiting him from playing, stresses he is hurt
- Ex-Steelers QB Batch creates sports medicine startup at Pitt
- Supporters optimistic about passage of medical marijuana
- Alcosan to hold public meetings on plans to reduce sewage flow into rivers during storms
- WVU frat pledge had fatal blood alcohol level more than 6 times legal limit
- Woman who made bomb threat at Bellevue bank in custody
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Bober released as Wuerl school president to concentrate on building new St. Kilian church
- ‘Let It Snow’ filming in Millvale