Even if you don’t know anything about street art or if you immediately associate the word graffiti with vandalism and trouble you probably still have heard the name Banksy. The artist only know by his pseudonym has created the best known and mostly highly valued art on the walls of Bristol, London and around the world with his quick stencil technique.
In his book Banksy states “Graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Despite having to creep about at night and lie to your mum it’s actually the most honest artform available. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on some of the best walls a town has to offer, and nobody is put off by the price of admission“ Which is a great foundation for this post on the removal of some of his work.
In case you missed it in the news a piece dubbed ‘Slave Labour’ (Above) was taken from it’s spot outside Poundland in Wood Green earlier this year and sold at auction for over $1million. More recently another Banksy piece (below was taken form a wall in Tottenham and is due to be sold at the same London auction house.
The removal of the artwork is obviously saddening for local residents and raises concerns for the art community. Graffiting walls loses an artist control over the piece, works by less well known artists on popular walls are regularly painted over, but the recent removal of valuable art raises the question of ownership. Who owns the physical paining? Banksy who placed it there? The owner of the building? The creator of the stencils? The Children depicted in the stencils? The governing authority who set the rules for street art? Well whoever it is (I say Banksy) it’s impossible to argue that it’s Sincura Group (the group selling it) or the anonymous remover.
I’ve said before that in some art context is just as important as the art itself. This is certainly true for a lot of street art. The placement on the side of the Tottenham shop and the area it’s created in all contribute to the piece.
The Sincura group claim they are ‘salvaging it’ after there have been attempts to ‘vandalise it’. But again this is part of the history and it’s wrong to take it out of the public eye where it was being enjoyed, for free, by many.
It’s odd to think paint placed on a wall isn’t permanently fixed in location, but the value of the Banksy name makes the effort worthwhile for some.
A Banksy has been taken before though. The water tank above was furbished inside and home to a (slightly eccentric) man. After Banksy made his reference to the elephant on the side the tank was bought from the landowner (not the resident) and saw the poor man made homeless.
Due to the tourist attraction Banksy pieces provide London already have a team dedicated to keeping the art in good condition, but there’s nothing to stop more pieces taken in future. We’d need to see the work devalued to dissuade future poachers but the prices are always likely to be high so the only real hope is that the government step in and stop the sales or update the law to protect important street art such as this.