‘Slave Labour’ by Banksy
 
Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour’ mural is scheduled to go under the hammer today at Frederic Thut’s auction house in Miami, USA. The sale description reads MODERN, CONTEMPORARY AND STREET ART: Asian, Latin American, American, European Artists, including Street Art, and the mural is expected to achieve a figure in the region of £450,000 ($700,000). The work, thought to be a commentary on the use of sweat-shop labour, first appeared on the wall of a Poundland store in Whymark Avenue, Wood Green, North London in May of last year but then ‘disappeared’ earlier this month. Poundland say they are investigating the disappearance of the mural and maintain they were not responsible for its removal.
 
Frederic Thut claims that the mural was not stolen but ‘legitimately removed’ by the owners of the wall; he has accused local people of assuming moral ownership of something that is not theirs. Councillor Alan Strickland however says that locals see it as an act of theft: “The feeling in the community here, very strongly, is that this is a piece of art given freely by Banksy to our community. It belongs to our community, and we’ve really enjoyed having it here. It seems quite wrong to take that out secretively and sell it at auction in Miami for half a million dollars. That seems completely counter to the spirit with which Banksy gave it to us.”
 
We have seen this sort of ‘removal’ of art from countless sites across the globe – perhaps the removal of Buddhist murals, manuscripts and artefacts from Dunhuang in Western China is the closest parallel to the Banksy mural where a similar ‘legitimate’ argument was used. The principal however is not whether it is legitimate to remove art from its original context but whether it is morally right to do so. Patently, it was not morally right to remove the Banksy Slave Labour mural from its North London context and we unreservedly support those campaigning to have it returned to its place of origin. Banksy’s position is that if you take his work out of its context it is no longer his work, it is not a Banksy. Purchasers of the work (if it is purchased) should take heed of that. Meanwhile, perhaps Banksy has had the last word as an appropriate ‘rat’ stencil has appeared next to the missing mural with the one word caption – Why?
 
 
The Rat stencil, possibly by Banksy, has now appeared next to the removed mural in Wood Green, London
Photo credit Antonia Kanczula
 
The sale at Frederic Thut’s will begin from 3pm today (local time) and will be held at –
 
FAAM
346 NW 29th street
Miami, Florida 33127
USA
 
Contact – info@faamiami.com
Tel: +1 305 573 4228
Fax: +1 305 573 4245
 
Update: The item has now been withdrawn from auction. Details here.