Banksy : mural artwork ripped off walls then found at a US auction

Banksy artwork painted on a London wall had been removed from it then appeared for sale at a Miami auction site. The estimated sales price is 500 000$. 


Banksy before…

The stolen Banksy mural was titled Slave Labor (Bunting Boy). London 2012 and was in no means set to be sold on a fine art market. That’s why the story gets outrageous.

The piece shows a young boy hunched over a sewing machine making Union Jack bunting. Apart from a likely sweat-shop-child-work denunciation, the piece was painted in May 2012 and has also been interpreted as a reaction to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. A controversial but also iconic creation that has been hacked off wall and then set to sell at a US auction site.

Banksy afterwards…

From London to Miami : the piece of art journey

The news of its theft was astonishing. The artwork was painted outside a Poundland shop in Haringey, a neighborhood in north London, and was stolen last weekend.

The graffiti wasn’t gone for too long though. It was found yesterday morning to sell on Fine Art Auctions Miami for the modest price of 500 000$. According to Frederic Thut, company owner, the piece was offered for sale by an anonymous yet well-known collector.

Regarding the transaction, Thut stated:

The collector signed a contract saying everything was above board

Haringey residents are angry. Angry indeed as this painting was a gift given by the famous anonymous artist and it was an honor to have it in their streets; and now it is for sale for a huge amount of money. Councillor Alan Strickland tweeted about it to call for support. He then told BBC “Residents have been really shocked and really astonished; Banksy gave that piece of art to our community, and people came from all over London to see it.”

Capture d’écran du compte Alan Strickland

Some similar kind of thefts were committed in the past, especially Bansky’s street art. He then refused to authenticate his pieces as his only exhibition place is, and will always remain, the streets.

The origin of the problem : the street art and graffiti merchandising

The banksy’s story raised an issue. Mercantilism and merchandising always existed in the contemporary art world. And we have to point out that even if street art is a free, but also often outlawed, type of art, it is now a victim of its success. The artistic phenomenon was fast tracked and widely covered by media, especially thanks to the Bristol born artist Banksy and Parisian Space Invader; it is now fully part of contemporary art. The consequences are important, the pieces are literally being hacked off from where they initially belonged. It’s always the same mechanism: the extreme worshipping of an artist leaving the essence of his creations aside. It is actually what the British artist was condemning in his full-length film Exit Through The Gift Shop.

We are facing an increasing appetite for this kind of work and it goes beyond anything expected. Even the insiders are overwhelmed. Though we can’t help but notice that we are also facing a lack of laws to protect the pieces. Indeed it is astonishing to see how the authorities are unable to cope with all this.

Finally, ripping off artworks from the streets, where they belong, to make money out of it is quite new. Street art is ambiguous, no matter how famous you can be, the aim isn’t to make money out of it and a financial utilisation of this art would be inconceivable for most street artists. It is infortunate that this free art is being ripped off the streets now.

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Translated by Chloé Dufourg

Culture urbaine et Musique actuelle.