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Banksy mural taken from London saved from U.S. auction block

This is an undated image of an art work from British artist Banksy made available by Haringey Council Wednesday Feb. 20, 2013. The stencil by the famed, secretive graffiti artist of a young boy sewing Union Jack bunting on an antique sewing machine appeared on the side of a north London bargain store last May. Soon the gritty Turnpike Lane area was drawing art lovers keen to see Banksy's typically cheeky take on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the British throne. Last week it vanished, leaving nothing but a rectangle of exposed brick — only to reappear on the website of a Miami auction house. Listed as "Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)," it is due to be sold Saturday with an estimated price of between $500,000 and $700,000.

The Associated Press

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.

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"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.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More


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