Anti-capitalist London graffiti mysteriously removed, offered for sale in Miami for $500,000

During the Jubilee, someone -- probably Banksy -- posted a graffiti mural on the side of a Poundland discount shop depicting a child working in a sweatshop sewing bunting with the Union flag on it. The mural attracted great attention in Wood Green, the district of London where it appeared, and local councillors took steps to ensure that it was not removed or painted over by overzealous city workers.

Then, one day, it disappeared. And reappeared in the catalog of Fine Art Auctions in Miami, with an asking price of $500,000. The auction house (which hasn't returned any press calls on the work) claims that it got the Banksy (or "Banksy") from a collector who assured them that it had been acquired through legal means. The Poundland shop says it had nothing to do with flogging the piece, and no one can get the building's owner on the phone.

Meanwhile, a piece of freely given art that decries capitalism and exploitation has been removed from the neighbourhood that was so proud of it, and is up for sale for half a million dollars in America.

Poundland, the store from which the artwork was removed, has tweeted that it is “NOT responsible for either selling or removing the Banksy mural,” adding that it does not own the building in question and has been unable to contact the owner so far to find out more, while local politician Alan Strickland has already launched a campaign for the artwork to be returned.

Talking to reporters, Strickland explained that “Banksy gave this art for free to our community, so we’re all angry that it’s been removed and put on sale for $500,000 in the U.S. We’re trying to track down who is responsible. We’re not certain who removed it, but we’re absolutely certain we want it back!”

Irony is not dead.

Banksy Work Cut Out of Wall, Offered at Auction for More Than $500K [Graeme McMillan/Wired]



  1. I don’t quite understand this:
    Where I come from “removing” graffiti means painting it over or using pretty strong detergents on it. Does that mean someone is trying to sell a dirty bucket of water plus chemicals? Or a photo of the piece? Or has someone actually removed a part of the wall and is trying to sell that? And does that mean poundland can now sue the owner because they have a whole in their store now?

    Edit: screw that, I should have just clicked the link … a piece of the wall it is, then. Also, it didn’t really disappear over night but the owner hired people to “work” on it for days.

    1. Just need a reader in London to visit the address and see if there is a big chunk of wall missing.

      People who loot mosaics from ancient sites will just hack away slabs of wall to do it.

      1. This is also a massive problem threatening indigenous rock art, here in Australia (and no doubt, elsewhere). Those who deal in art, are not ‘arty’, they are just scum. Try creating some art instead.

    2. I bailed on the Banksy bus when I first saw Banksy postcards, key-rings and cute Banksy stationery for sale in Camden Market about five years ago. I think it was all unauthorised/bootleg goods, but still… it’s important sometimes to allow the bus to drive off without you.

      1. There was a stand in Camden a year ago, I think called Purplegherkin. Talked to the owner: They actually gave a percentage to whichever artist was featured that week, and the guy seemed to know some of them. They still made most their money with Banksy stuff but paid mostly to artists less well-known. Since they insisted on using only quality or in some way eco-friendly material, they didn’t stay in business for long because tourists would just buy whatever they wanted where it’s cheapest, even if it was just scanned from a photo book and printed on whatever.
        … If I hadn’t talked to the guy, I’d never known this existed, and would likely have gone somewhere else where it’s cheaper, which shows the whole problem.

  2. Assuming the guy who removed it is the guy who owns the building — and if Bansky didn’t get the building owner’s permission to place it there — and if he didn’t violate Poundland’s leasehold in the building to do it — I say hurrah on him.

    1. If all your stipulations hold, I’d believe the owner very likely entitled to do whatever he liked with it (local conditions, bye-laws, etc being unknown to me). But I don’t believe I’ll yield a hurrah.

      1. yeah to use a perhaps extreme example:
        people selling slaves a long time ago were perfectly within their rights legally to capture and sell those people, but i don’t think i would cheer them doing it.
        same here, legal or not it’s a dick move.

        1. Extreme? Hardly! The practice of capturing people like animals from their homelands and then trading them in markets thousands of miles away, sold as property without basic human rights… Why, it draws numerous parallels with the removal of artwork from a building. For one thing, it’s a dick move. Also, the historical repercussions of each will reverberate for centuries, with generations of the descendants of slaves (and walls) fighting for equality. There are others. Too many to list really.

      1. Antonious, if you’d rather I just not comment here, please just say so.
        I like BoingBoing rather a lot and I’ve been posting on here for years and years and even though I don’t quite fit in politically — although I’m probably far closer to your view on more than you imagine — I think I’m mostly polite about my positions.  I’ve certainly never directed any vitriol at any other regular (or occasional) commenter.  If that’s not enough to pass middle management scrutiny, just let me know. 

        1. You’ve made an obnoxious comment expressing your pleasure at something that has obviously made a lot of other people unhappy.  And now you’re butthurt at being told off for your greed-hate philosophy.  Excuse the shit out of me if your feelings are hurt.

    2. Translation: ‘As long as everyone involved followed rules and regulations, hurrah.’

      Hope you never run a red light and become a hypocrite.

  3. It has been a good year for Irony.  Add this to the anarchist book store being firebombed and the pirates bay suing on copy right infringement.

    1. Where’s the irony in an anarchist bookstore being firebombed? Authoritarians have been attacking and burning anarchist spaces since before anarchism was a movement.

    1.  Graffiti’s a thing which can be ugly and disfiguring, but which also occasionally transcends that ugliness to be something else. Banksy’s pieces often present biting social commentary, which some people — such as the councillors for Wood Green, and the Poundland employees — found worth preserving.

      tldr: some graffiti is okay.

      1. Sadly 99% of the graffiti I see is the same endless bubble letter tags.  No creativity, just lots of “Look at me!”.

          1. Except the advertiser pays the property owner

            “disfiguring my environment”
            I could say the same about tagging.

        1. I know what you mean but … meh. I just consider that practice. Really *annoying* practice for sure, but no one gets really good at anything without practicing, and how else are you gonna practice graffiti?

          1. I am pretty sure that almost everybody has access to a wall that they can practice on, then paint over, and repeat.  But it’s always train cars and overpasses

            Basically, I see a big difference between “tags” and “graffiti” (and “graffiti art,” for that matter).  This is art, or at least graffiti art, not a “tag” that is just some guys handle in bubble letters.

          2. When I see the same tag repeated a million times (and scratched into every mirror) I seriously doubt they are working on their painting skills.

        2. Sadly 99% of the graffiti I see is the same endless bubble letter tags. No creativity, just lots of “Look at me!”.

          Sadly, 99% of the old master oil paintings that I see are the same endless portraits of rich, white people. No creativity, just lots of, “Look at my expensive lace ruff!”

          1. I’ve never heard someone compare, say, a Da Vinci or Rembrandt to tagging.  I think you are clutching at straws here.

            I guess the pyramids of Egypt are just another rich guy’s heap of rock.

          2. I’ve never heard someone compare, say, a Da Vinci or Rembrandt to tagging.

            Incorrect.  You just did.

        3. So, you prefer gray concrete?

          I say have at it. Allow all walls to get painted and maybe U.S. architecture will look more like Mexico: colorful and diverse.

  4. Banksy (or whomever) didn’t give the piece to the community, he painted it on somebodies property and that person was smart enough to remove it and will make a bundle off it. I have absolutely no problem with this. 

    1. I, on the other hand, have a problem with it. It was public British art, now it is stolen from the UK and will probably turn up in the cellar of a collector. Shameful.

      1. I like Banksy but this sort of thing is inherent in street art; you get to write on someone else’s wall, but they’ve the right to take it down/paint over it. If you want to make proper public art, get approval from the city council or negotiate a contact with the property owner (kind of takes the romantic illegality of street art disappear though).

        1.  The owner of the building is well within his or her legal rights.  That doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.

        2. You really think BANKSY can get public approval? The man protect’s his identity for a reason, ya know.

        3. …you get to write on someone else’s wall, but they’ve the right to take it down/paint over it.

          Yes, everybody was so upset about it being there that they installed a plexiglass screen to protect it.

          1. Hey, you’re preaching to the choir; I wish the piece were still there. But such is the bargain a street artist makes when they use another’s property as a free canvas, you get your art seen for all the (local) world but the owner’s the right to do with it as he pleases.

        4. Yeah and if you want to end racial discrimination, get proper authorization before protesting it. The only way to change the system is by using the system and playing by its rules.

          1. Seriously, you’re comparing racial discrimination with the right to have your own building painted the way you want to instead of how some random artist wants to?

  5. I feel like the public will not suffer in losing such a glib visual metaphor. The only real loser here is the idiot who purchases this shallow, slapdash POS for 500,000 dollars. In fact, I think the purchase of this is a greater anti-consumerist performance than the piece itself.

      1.  would even be a good idea, well not the re-installing it, but buying it himself since it would then be his property and could be shown wherever.

    1.  Do you have a show up at a gallery so I can go critique your work?  I just ask ’cause you seem a little bitter.

  6. Paint something on a thing I own without my consent or even a “by your leave” and I can do whatever I please with it.

    1. It would seem that way. I wonder, though, about these British councils. They seem to think they have a lot of say over these types of visuals. I wonder how it compares to zoning, neighborhood associations, historic districting, and bylaws in various parts of the US which limit your right to do as you wish with your real property.

  7. It is not really ironic if it is already ironic to begin with. Banksy isn’t the moron you guys are making him out to be. Duchamp covered all this 100 years ago. Try to keep up.

  8. This is like SAMO all over again.  Back in the 80s, sleazy opportunists would tear out Basquiat’s old graffiti tags all over NYC and sell them to private collectors.

  9. Banksy didn’t give the art to the community, he gave the owner of the building a large sum of free money by putting the art on their building (or maybe even by saying ‘yeah suuure that’s one of mine’ when they asked him via if some copycat piece was authentic )

  10. I can only hope that Banksy does one of the two things: either buy it and give it back to the community, although obviously not at the place it was, or declare that it wasn’t his even if it was, which would mean the person who bought it from the building owner will be properly screwed because a work that you’re almost certain is a Banksy can probably get half a million but if Banksy himself declares it not his then it’s suddenly a piece of art by an unknown person and is worth a small fraction of that half million, which would send a great message to future buyers that if you buy a shadowy appropriated Banksy he will declare it not his and kill its monetary value. I’d really like to see him declare it not his, then buy at $10,000 to give back to community.

  11. The only way something like this would remotely acceptable and not completely shitty – in fact it would be hilarious – would be if a prized Banksy was removed only to reappear in the  National Archaeological Museum of Greece in Athens

  12. Has Banksy even claimed authorship?  Because half a million bucks for a piece with no provenance…  Yeah, good luck with that.

  13. Doesn’t Bansky usually sign his pieces?
    And it’s fairly easy to copy the look of his most famous ones. I’d say that shelling out a half a mill for un signed stencil art is retarded.

  14. Well, I’d rather the art had remained where it was, especially since the community seemed to appreciate it, but when a graffiti artist (even banksy) paints on someone else’s property, he knowingly accepts several risks. One is being prosecuted. Another is having his work destroyed. The third- well, here it is, the owner of the ‘canvas’ making a profit from the unsolicited art.

    One can be upset, but there’s not much ground for righteous outrage. Just remember that without those risks, the art wouldn’t be such a big deal. The full effect is due to quality+message+placement+illegality. 

    1. Indeed. 

      I wonder how these protesters would feel if someone painted a trenchant, clever commentary on their car one night and they were then told that they couldn’t sell it, repaint it, or move to another neighborhood because people have grown accustomed to it.

      I like his work, and I would have left it there, but I wouldn’t disparage someone else from doing otherwise.

  15. Waltons, Koch Brothers, Jack Welch and Donald Trump will be in a a bidding war to crank that measly $500K up to a couple of mil in no time. 

    “Looks great in the foyer”

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