"Banksy gave that piece of art to our community," says a local councilman, "and people came from all over London to see it." Now there's a gaping hole where the mural once was and neighborhood folks are furious.
For mysterious and acclaimed street artist Banksy, controversy is never too far away, even after the paint has dried.
According to the BBC, a Banksy mural was ripped off a London wall last week and has now resurfaced on a Miami art auction site for a guide price of $500,000 to $700,000.
The graffiti, titled "Banksy Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)" by the Florida gallery, features a young boy hunched over a sewing machine stitching Union Jack bunting. According to The Guardian, the depiction was meant to condemn child labor ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.
Near the Poundland department store in the Wood Green area of North London where the artwork was first placed, local residents told Haringey Online that things seemed amiss last week when scaffolding and tarpaulin went up over the mural. They discovered Saturday that the artwork had disappeared, replaced by a gaping hole in the wall.
Banksy mural taken from wall in London
A Poundland spokesperson told The Guardian the company does not own the building where the mural once stood and did not remove the artwork. Local residents and politicians are furious over its sudden extraction.
"Residents have been really shocked and really astonished," local councilman Alan Strickland told the BBC. "Banksy gave that piece of art to our community, and people came from all over London to see it."
City officials had even placed a sign at the local subway station guiding visitors to the Banksy piece.
Strickland has pledged to campaign for the work's return and urged residents to petition Fine Art Auctions Miami, where it is currently up for auction. Frederic Thut, owner of the auction company, rejected claims that the piece was stolen and told The Sun it's being offered by a well-known collector, whom Thut refused to name. Thut told The Sun the collector signed a contract saying that "everything was above board" with the mural.
The Bunting Boy portrait is far from the first Banksy piece to make its way into headlines for the wrong reasons. In 2012, a defaced Banksy "Balloon Girl" mural, originally painted in Kingston, Jamaica, reappeared in a Jamaican independence exhibit in Nottingham, England.
Jamaican artist Peter Dean Rickards smashed the piece and reportedly let a dog urinate on it order to protest the value attached to art and the celebrity given to those who create it, the BBC reports. Rickards legally purchased "Balloon Girl" from a Kingston bar for more than $2,000 in "cash and rum."
Banksy pieces have also become the targets of theft and fraud. In 2010, a man stole two Banksy works from a London gallery by smashing a road sign through the building's window, according to the BBC. The next year, a Bansky titled "Sperm Alarm" was snatched from a London hotel. It reappared on eBay for more than $25,000 and was never recovered.
This month, two Bansky pieces — one titled "Wrong War" and the other a signed print — were recovered by London police in a fraud probe, the BBC reports. They were sold by a London dealer for nearly $20,000, but the buyer's credit card later came back as fraudulent.
Police caught a break when the suspect attempted to buy more art from the same dealer. He was arrested and found in possession of "Wrong War." The signed print was recovered when a concerned buyer, who purchased the print from the suspect, returned it to the dealer.
In the past, according to the BBC, Banksy has refused to authenticate works attributed to him, believing they should remain in their original location.
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