February 25, 2013
Do the Londoners upset about the missing Banksy consider how Greece feels about the Parthenon Marbles?
The story of the Banksy artwork that disappeared from a wall in London has reached some sort of conclusion, with the news that the auction is no cancelled. It is great to see people getting so enthusiastic about preserving local artwork, but do the people whose protests stopped this auction ever consider how the original owners of many of the disputed artefacts in Britain’s museums feel?
If we consider the circumstances, the missing Banksy is a very weak case – there is nothng to indicate that it was not the owner of the wall who was selling it. Or that he had a right to do whatever he wanted to with this wall.
In term of the artwork, it could be argued that it was site specific – but only to the extent that Banksy had chosen that wall for it. realistically, it could have been applied equally well in many other locations. Furthermore, consider the duration that the artwork existed in this location for – only a matter of months. If this is contrasted to the Parthenon Marbles, they were located in-situ for over two millenia, and were designed specifically with that location in mind – to the extent that they formed an integral part of the building that they were on – they could not be removed without destroying parts of the building.
Stopping this auction & enriching the streets of the borough of Haringey might be a good cause – but the people supporting it really ought to think about the many far more important cases that Britain’s museums try & brush off as unimportant.
Interestingly, a new artwork has already appeared on the wall that the Banksy has been removed from – so restoring it is not possible without destroying another piece of art…
Banksy mural: I’m being scapegoated, says Miami art dealer
Richard Luscombe in Miami
Friday 22 February 2013 15.47 GMT
The owner of a Florida art house handling the controversial auction of a Banksy mural prised from a north London wall has spoken out to claim he is being unfairly scapegoated, and insists the sale is legal and will take place.
Slave Labour, a spray painting depicting a barefooted boy making Union Jack bunting in a sewing machine, by the celebrated street artist Banksy, was removed from the wall of a Poundland shop in north London last week under mysterious circumstances. As local authorities, residents and the shop’s owner have denied all knowledge, protests from UK authorities have turned to the Miami auctioneer.
Frederic Thut said that his Fine Art Auctions Miami gallery has been inundated with abusive phone calls and emails from the UK since it was revealed this week that the artwork was set to go under the hammer Saturday for up to $700,000.
But Mr Thut, a 35-year veteran of art auctions who has handled tens of millions of dollars’ worth of work from artists including Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Renoir and Warhol, says the anger of those protesting against the sale is misplaced.
“It’s been said that the artwork was stolen, and that is just not true,” he told the Guardian.
“We take a lot of care with our consignors, who they are, what they do, and if there’s any illegality we will not touch it. Everything is checked out 150%.”
Protests from London have focused on the anonymity of the seller and the covert removal of the 4x5ft slab, which literally disappeared from the wall, infuriating residents who described it as a gift to the local area.
On Friday, Scotland Yard confirmed that it had received an enquiry from US authorities regarding the artwork. “We have advised the US authorities that there are no reports of theft at this time,” said a spokesman for the Metropolitan police.
Mr Thut confirmed only that the anonymous seller is a “well-known collector” who is not British. But he said that the owner’s prime motive for the sale was to conserve artwork that might otherwise be lost, and that the buyer would be supplied with a letter of provenance.
“Our consignors are not gamblers or money-makers. They are people whose first interest is in art and its preservation,” he said.
“We respect our clients and their confidentiality. It’s not our decision to have [the Banksy] returned. We only sell it. We do not have control of it.”
Thut, however, said that he supported the inclusion of the piece, and a second Banksy entitled Wet Dog, a 2007 artwork removed from the West Bank of Bethlehem and estimated in value between $600,000 and $800,000, in Saturday’s 118-lot Modern, Contemporary and Street Art sale.
“It’s about conservation: here’s a piece of art, [and] we are going to protect it,” he said. “It could have been destroyed. When you try to make an event with a speciality you want the best lots, and Banksy is a part of the street art scene.”
Politicians have joined the fight to prevent the sale. Local council leader Claire Kober, the leader of Haringey council, escalated the fight to have the Banksy returned to London by writing to the Miami mayor, Tomas Regalado, and appealing to him to halt the sale.
In the letter she described the artwork, which appeared just before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year, and was interpreted as an attack on the celebrations, as “a landmark that people have come from all over London, the UK and the world to see”.
Although Thut is certain that there are no legal obstacles to the sale, he fears that the furore might have damaged the reputation of his company, which moved into Miami’s trendy Wynwood arts district two years ago and has been steadily carving a niche as one of the city’s leading arts auctioneers.
“It’s sad, because the majority of comments we have had are uneducated and people don’t understand,” he said. “We have a thick skin, but this is not the kind of publicity that we were looking for, and we’re really not too keen for this. It may be that this affects our reputation, and that’s not fair.”
Until this week’s Banksy controversy, the Miami company, founded by Thut in September 2011 in partnership with his long-established New York-based appraisal business, was largely unknown outside of fine arts circles. It has a staff of seven scattered between Miami, New York and Paris and deals mainly with European clients.
But it scored a significant success in December at an auction during the city’s Art Basel fair when it sold a 1910 Valentin Serov portrait, which was expected to reach $150,000, for $4.7mn, a world record for a Russian painting.
Thut, a Swiss-born art enthusiast and former dealer who was one of the pioneers of online art auction rooms, accepts he will probably now be better known for this episode, which he insists is not of his making.
Meanwhile, Banksy, the reclusive artist who has in the past criticised the efforts of those who have tried to sell his works, has made no comment about the Miami sale, either personally or through his “handling service” Pest Control.
Marc Schiller, founder of the street art website woostercollective.com and who claims to be a friend of Banksy, told the Guardian that the work was worthless in an art auction because it was only ever intended as a piece of location-specific social commentary.
“I’m not buying the argument that because Banksy put a piece in public it gives a person the right to steal and resell it,” he said. “When he is on the street he is giving his work to the public to enjoy for a day, a month, a year or more. His position has been that if you take his work out of its context it’s not his work any more, it’s no longer a Banksy.”
“Sotheby’s and Christie’s would not touch it, and the only way you can sell it is through shady circumstances, by keeping yourself anonymous and never telling how you got it, how it came to be.”
He added that he doubted the auction would be successful. “The truth is that it’s worthless, and even if somebody buys it for whatever price, their only opportunity is to look at it from the perspective that it was acquired by theft,” he said.
“No legitimate collector would buy it. My argument is not that the sale shouldn’t happen; it’s that there shouldn’t be a market for it.”
24 February 2013 Last updated at 04:44
Banksy artwork taken in north London withdrawn from sale
A Banksy artwork which was taken from a London street and had been listed for auction in the US has been withdrawn from sale, the BBC has learned.
The Banksy mural, depicting a boy hunched over a sewing machine making Union Jack bunting, disappeared from Whymark Avenue earlier this month.
It had been expected to be auctioned in Miami later but the auction house told the BBC the sale was halted.
A new mural had appeared on the street wall where the image was removed.
Slave Labour – the mural that was removed – appeared on the wall in Wood Green, north London, last May, shortly before the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
It disappeared from the side of the Poundland store last weekend and had been expected to fetch up to £450,000 at auction in Miami.
Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) confirmed to the BBC that the Banksy mural had been withdrawn from sale.
However, a spokesman gave no reason for its withdrawal.
“Although there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale of lots six and seven by Banksy, FAAM convinced its consignors to withdraw these lots from the auction and take back the power of authority of these works,” he said.
‘Affection’ and ‘disappointment’
Earlier, Haringey Council said it had learned that the sale was stopped at the last minute.
Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober said it was “a true credit to the community” that their campaigning seemed to have “helped to stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead”.
“We will continue to explore all options to bring back Banksy to the community where it belongs,” she said.
It appeared that a starting bid of $400,000 (£262,450) had been made before the auction of the artwork was halted.
The new mural that appeared on the north London wall depicts a woman in a nun’s habit, but it is not known if it is by Banksy.
BBC Oxford producer Andy Gordon was visiting relatives on Saturday when he snapped the newest addition to Whymark Avenue in Haringey.
“We thought we were just going along to see the gap in the wall and were surprised to see something else had appeared.
“There was obviously a lot of affection for it in Wood Green and a lot of people were very disappointed when their Banksy disappeared.”
He said the new mural had appeared in exactly the same spot as the Banksy artwork.
Local councillor Alan Strickland said residents had been left “really shocked and really astonished” at the disappearance of the mural of the boy.
“Banksy gave that piece of art to our community, and people came from all over London to see it,” he said.
Banksy’s work has been at the centre of a number of thefts over the years.
In May 2010, two pieces were stolen from a gallery in London, after a man used a road sign to smash a glass window at the front of the building.
A year later, a piece known as Sperm Alarm was ripped off the wall of a hotel in Central London, and appeared on eBay for £17,000. It was never recovered.
- More on the “stolen” Banksy artwork : February 20, 2013
- Who owns the Banksy street art on a wall? The wall owner or the public? : February 22, 2013
- Stealing a work of art – that some claim was vandalism in the first place : February 18, 2013
- The Poundland Banksy is not the Parthenon Sculptures – but there are similarities : March 1, 2013
- Is removing an act of vandalism vandalism? – AKA the Banksy Paradox : April 16, 2014
- Egypt receives stolen artefacts returned from UK : February 21, 2012
- Egypt wants Pharaoh’s coffin returned : March 25, 2009
- Sothebys cancels sale of looted Benin Oba mask : January 27, 2011