Slave Labour (mural)
"Slave Labour" is a mural that was painted by a British graffiti artist, Banksy, on the side wall of a Poundland store in Wood Green, London in May 2012, an area that had been significantly damaged by the London riots in 2011. The artwork is 48 by 60 inches, depicts an urchin child at a sewing machine assembling a bunting of Union Jack patches. The work had been covered with a protective perspex screen. It is believed that the work is a protest against the use of sweatshops to manufacture Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics memorabilia in 2012.
Disappearance and Reappearance
There is controversy over the mysterious disappearance of the mural, as a portion of the wall was physically removed from the building the artwork was sprayed upon. The owners of the building have not commented either way on whether it was legally or illegally sold and removed. When the mural mysteriously disappeared in February 2013 - the following week it was listed for sale on an online site and later appeared for sale at the Fine Art Auctions Miami for half a million dollars ($500,000). The Auction house insisted the artwork was acquired through a legitimate transaction with a "well known" collector."  The listing of the art at auction outraged the community of Wood Green residents, who believe the work was a gift to them, and who believe that listing the artwork for sale at auction contradicted the wishes of the artist whose message called for an end to exploitation in the name of capitalism. However, despite claims that the acquisition of the artwork was legitimate, the FAAM director Frederic Thut withdrew the artwork, even after three bids had already been placed. Thut was also advised to keep quiet about the whole situation.
A stencil of what seems like Banksy's signature rat holding a sign saying "Why?" appeared next to the area, it is said to be Banksy retailiating against the theft of his own artwork. But the artwork has since been removed. A representative of Banksy claims the rat is a fake. When prompted to comment on the sale of his artworks through auction houses, Banksy replied by giving a quote from Henry Matisse: "I was very embarrassed when my canvases began to fetch high prices, I saw myself condemned to a future of painting nothing but masterpieces." Furthermore, in previous attempts to sell his artwork, he has stated his position, “For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs I'd encourage people not to buy anything by anybody unless it was created for sale in the first place.”.
Other Banksy accredited works have appeared for sale in the past. The 'Wet Dog', a mural painted by Banksy in Palestine in 2007, is on sale for $425,000 at the Keszler Gallery. The Keszler Gallery was heavily criticised for 'acquiring' seven Banksy pieces, none of which were certified by Pest Control, Banksy's authentication office (however the firm does not authenticate works that have been removed from their original locations).
The community, including a group led by the councillor and some of the other residents, believe that property values rise where Banksy’s murals are created, thus the “theft” of the mural could potentially be of economic as well as moral dispute over ownership. The investment company (Wood Green Investments) has remained silent on the issue, although the Artist wishes that the works remain in their intended context. “The local authority can’t really do much, except try and get the building listed or get English Heritage involved,” said Daniel Levy, property litigator at Mishcon de Reya. The artist’s authentication service, “Pest Control”, has failed to authenticate the piece.
Feelings of the building owners towards the mural:
Robert Daives and Les Gilbert who own the freehold on a Poundland store tell the media that they wish the mural had never painted on their wall. They state that the arrival of the mural has been nothing but problems. A friend of the owner said in the media "They never wanted any of this. When the artwork first arrived, they had an enormous problem with gangs in the area. They were extorting the owners, saying they would damage it and they had to protect it." Mr. Daives and Mr. Gilbert did not even get any support from the council in protecting this. They said the council just caused them "more problems and more problems".
- "'Missing' Banksy art Slave Labor (Bunting Boy) on auction in Miami for $500,000", Global Post, (February 20, 2013), http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/culture-lifestyle/130220/missing-banksy-slave-labor-bunting-boy-auction-miami
- "Borough Searches for Missing Boy, Last Seen on Wall", New York Times, (February 28, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/world/europe/give-us-our-banksy-mural-back-londoners-say.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
- "The mysterious case of the missing Banksy", 3 News - Best News, (February 19, 2013), http://www.3news.co.nz/The-mysterious-case-of-the-missing-Banksy/tabid/418/articleID/287307/Default.aspx
- "Now bring back Banksy boy: Slave Labour mural withdrawn from auction at last minute", London Evening Standard, (February 24, 2013), http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/now-bring-back-banksy-boy-slave-labour-mural-withdrawn-from-auction-at-last-minute-8508403.html
- "Give us back our Banksy! Auction house selling 'stolen' art is bombarded with calls... as rat shows up next to missing graffiti", Mail Online, (February 22, 2013), http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2282958/Banksy-Auction-house-selling-stolen-art-bombarded-calls--rat-shows-missing-graffiti.html
- "Banksy Graffiti On Poundland Auction Due To Take Place As Owner Wood Green Investments Maintains Silence", The Huffington Post, (February 23, 2013),http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/23/banksy-graffiti-on-poundland-auction-tonight-miami_n_2748499.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
- "Frequently Asked Questions: What do you think about the auction houses selling street art?", Banksy, http://www.banksy.co.uk/QA/qaa.html
- "'Stolen' Banksy mural withdrawn from sale at U.S. auction house following storm of protest as mysterious new graffiti appears in its place", Mail Online, (February 23, 2013), http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2283475/Stolen-Banksy-mural-withdrawn-sale-U-S-auction-house-following-storm-protest-mysterious-new-graffiti-appears-place.html
- "Two Banksy Pieces From the West Bank Are Now For Sale in the Hamptons", (September 9, 2011), http://www.vulture.com/2011/09/banksy-hamptons-west-bank-wet-dog-stop-search.html
- "Laughing all the way to Banksy", The Sun, (October 20, 2010), http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/3187949/Banksy-graffiti-can-push-up-property-price.html
- "Banksy Graffiti On Poundland Auction Due To Take Place As Owner Wood Green Investments Maintains Silence", The Huffington Post, (February 23, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/02/23/banksy-graffiti-on-poundland-auction-tonight-miami_n_2748499.html
- "Sale of 'stolen' Banksy mural cancelled at 11th hour", The Guardian, (February 23, 2013), http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/feb/23/banksy-missing-mural-auction-stopped
- "Owners ‘wish Banksy had never been on their wall’", (February 25, 2013), http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/owners-wish-banksy-had-never-been-on-their-wall-8509856.html