As the case of the Banksy artwork removed from the wall in Wood Green continues, more & more people are trying to draw slightly absurd parallels to the Parthenon Marbles & calling for the British Ministry of Culture to intervene to block the auction from taking place. However in this case, I can’t really understand quite what the basis for the arguments is.
It now seems clear that the owner of the building (of which the wall on which the graffiti was on was a part) authorised & presumably organised the removal of the artwork. No doubt they stand to make a reasonable profit from it. Now, Banksy picks the walls he paints on – with no consultation with the owners, so this lucky owner is soon going to be wealthier than they were before – and it is entirely through luck.
Haringey Council are claiming that the art is something that enriched the area & was in part something that belonged to the people. It is unclear how they can make this judgement, though, when much of their time is spent cleaning graffiti (that is typically of much poorer quality) off walls. There is no body which decides what is graffiti & what is street art – and that one must be scrubbed off & one preserved, so there argument does not really carry much weight.
It would be great if the work could have stayed – but that is just my own personal opinion – nothing more. Just because you don’t like what is happening, it doesn’t mean that the law should suddenly intervene (without any clear legal framework under which to do so).
Comparisons to the Parthenon Marbles are far more ridiculous – street art by its nature is a transient thing – even with protection, paint will flake off in a few years, leading it to fade away. The sale is being made legally (despite the fact that many people are upset by it).
February 20, 2013, 6:25 pm
London’s Stolen Banksy Heads to the Auction Block Despite 11th Hour English Rescue Attempt
Part of the inherent definition of street art is that it is, by nature, public. It appears on the sides of buildings and on sidewalks, in doorways and on concrete blocks. It most often appears in urban neighborhoods, and tends to lend itself to some sort of social commentary. The illicit nature of the craft is in itself subversive and, as a corollary, non-commercial. Or it was anyway.
In recent years, street art has become gritty-chic, touted by the likes of Kate Moss, and therefore increasingly popular as a collecting category. Original works by Banksy, probably the most important street artist of the last twenty years, now fetch six figures at auction. It was only a matter of time before people started ripping down walls to, quite literally, extract the value from them.
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