February 18, 2013

Stealing a work of art – that some claim was vandalism in the first place

Posted at 2:14 pm in Similar cases

This story is interesting on a number of levels. Coming from Bristol, I saw Banksy’s work long before he was famous outside his home city & before his work became seen as art rather than vandalism. It was interesting to note the change of heart of the local newspapers, who switched their point of view within the space of a year, from stop this vandal ruining our city, to young Bristol artist achieves international recognition… Anyway, the case in this story is a peculiar one – the art appears without permission – an nobody gets paid for it initially, but if it is good enough, then it adds some sort of value to the wall that was picked as its location. At the end of the day, the artist expects many of their works to be erased by those who do not appreciate them, so the only person who really loses out is the owner of the wall it was on (and the other people who passed by the wall & appreciated it).

On the other hand, I don’t entirely buy into the idea that the artwork was a gift to the local community – I think it happened to be a wall in the right place & that was all there was to it.

That said, while the work was produced for free & was not commissioned as such, the idea that someone can come along & remove it without permission for purely personal gain is entirely wrong, just as much so as in other cases of stolen / looted art. The fact that it is possible to sell works such as this on the open market, suggests that many dealers & collectors are still completely lacking in any sort of moral framework to their dealings & that self policing of the industry does not work.

The fact that no complaint has been lodged with the police suggests that perhaps there is no crime to be reported – it would not surprise me if the person who authorised the removal & was doing the selling was in fact the owner of the wall.

It would be interesting to hear Banksy’s viewpoint on the story.

Daily Mail

Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour’ mural taken from wall and put on U.S. art auction website for £450,000
Street art cut from London wall last week is now up for sale in America
Banksy Slave Labour could fetch nearly half a million at auction
Locals are furious their ‘gift’ from the mystery Bristol artist has been taken
By Sam Webb
PUBLISHED: 10:41, 18 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:57, 18 February 2013

A painting by the elusive British guerilla artist Banksy has been gouged out of a wall in North London and is being sold by an American art dealer.

Banksy Slave Labour, depicting a child labourer sewing Union Jack bunting, is expected to fetch £450,000 on the Fine Art Auctions Miami website.

The street art was stencilled onto the side of a Poundland shop in Wood Green in 2012 but disappeared last week.

Gallery owner Frederic Thut told The Sun that it was being sold by a ‘well-known’ collector who is not British but refused to divulge any more information. He added that the painting was being stored in Europe.

Locals are furious about the painting being stolen. Councillor Alan Strickland says the artwork was a ‘gift’ to his community and has instigated a campaign to get the artwork returned by urging people to e-mail the U.S. auction website.

He said: ‘The Banksy appeared last May and created lots of excitement in the area – people were coming from across London to see it.

‘We were really proud to have a Banksy in our neighbourhood, so residents were shocked to realise it had been ripped out of the wall.

‘The community feels that this art was given to us, for free, and it’s now been taken away to be sold for huge profit. I’m very angry about the Banksy going – we want our Banksy back!’

Much of the controversial artist’s work is believed to have a political message, and Slave Labour is believed to be a statement on sweatshops churning out decorations and memorabilia got the Golden Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics.

Poundland say they are not behind the removal of the artwork, which was behind a protective perspex screen when it was taken.

A spokesman said: ‘We’re not responsible for either selling or removing the Banksy mural. We’re currently investigating.’

A Met Police spokesman said the removal has not been reported as a crime.

An original Banksy artwork has been recovered by police after an art dealer alerted officers to an alleged fraud, Scotland Yard said.

The original of Wrong War by Bristol’s renowned graffiti artist and a signed print of No Ball Games were bought for £12,990 last month.

But two weeks after delivering the artworks to a customer in Plumstead, south London, the art dealer received bank letters stating that the cards used to buy the images did not have the authorisation of the cardholders.

Both payments were cancelled and refunded to the cardholder, leaving the dealer in Essex without the artworks or payments.

Officers from Greenwich CID launched an investigation when, in the meantime, the suspect contacted the art dealer again, this time to make a purchase of two Banksy prints worth £10,000.

Police were informed of this order and arrested a 25-year-old man at an address in Plumstead on February 8. He has since been bailed pending further inquiries.

Officers searched an address in Charlton, believed to be linked to the suspect, where they recovered Wrong War.

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