Banksy street murals pulled from Miami auction after controversy

Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:01pm EST
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Two spray-paint murals by the elusive street artist Banksy, including one that vanished last week from a North London wall, were pulled in the 11th hour from a Miami auction on Saturday.

Who owns the London mural remains a mystery, as does how it ended up in a Miami auction house shortly after going missing.

Frederic Thut, owner of Fine Art Auctions Miami, which had been due to sell the piece, has said his firm did "all necessary due diligence" to establish the ownership of the work. But the London piece and another Banksy mural were pulled nevertheless.

"Although there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale of lots 6 and 7 by Banksy, Fine Art Auctions Miami convinced its consignors to withdraw these lots from the auction and take back the power of authority of these works," Thut wrote in an email. They had been due to be auctioned on Saturday.

The work at the center of the controversy was painted on a building occupied by Poundland Stores, a British retailer that sells various items for only a pound. The work, titled "Banksy: Slave Labour," shows a young boy kneeling at a sewing machine with Union Jack bunting.

The mural appeared in 2012 during Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrating her 60th year on the throne. The Poundland chain was a focal point of controversy in 2010 because of allegations it sold goods made by Indian children as young as 7.

The Miami auction house has declined to say who owns the mural, valued between $500,000 and $700,000.

Banksy's trademark spray-paint stencils offering ironic social commentary are never verified, although they are hotly sought after by collectors.   Continued...

A rat is painted next to a section of wall that was removed and shipped to the U.S., in north London February 23, 2013. The section that was removed had a painting on it's surface, thought to be by graffiti artist Banksy. The work, known as 'SlaveLabour', and the piece of wall it was painted on, is up for sale at a Miami auction house. REUTERS/Neil Hall