A London borough council is celebrating the decision by a Miami auction house not to sell a piece of street art that was mysteriously pulled off the side of a building.
Slave Labour, by celebrated graffiti artist “Banksy,” went missing last week after someone chipped it off a building in Haringey, a London neighbourhood hit hard by riots in 2011. The mural suddenly reappeared at Fine Art Auctions in Miami and was slated to go up for sale Saturday for an estimated price of around $700,000.
Haringey council waged an international campaign to stop the sale and have the piece returned to London, arguing it had been a gift to the borough. The owner of Fine Art Auctions, Frederic Thut, insisted the piece was being sold by a legitimate collector, but on Saturday the mural was abruptly pulled from the auction. The auction house did not give a reason for halting the sale but it had been inundated with angry calls and e-mails from around the world.
"It’s a true credit to the community that their campaigning appears to have helped stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead,” Council Leader Claire Kober said in a statement Sunday. “We will continue to explore all options to bring back Banksy to the community where it belongs."
Just who took the artwork remains a mystery. The owner of the building has been vague about what happened, according to Haringey councillor Alan Strickland, and there is a significant indentation in the wall where it was chipped out. Banksy has not commented either but a sketch of a rat holding a sign saying “Why?” has appeared on the same building, with some suggesting that could be from the artist.
The reclusive Bansky has become famous over the years for his cheeky pieces – among them a depiction of Mona Lisa wearing headphones and carrying a rocket launcher and a monkey lugging a sandwich board that reads: "Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge."
A documentary of him was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 and one of his works sold for more than $1-million at a charity auction.