$1.1 Million Banksy Sold for Private Profit in 2013

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“Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)” was painted in 2012.Credit Haringey Council, via European Pressphoto Agency. Courtesy of The New York Times.

After leaving a Banksy work up for ten months, the owners of the building on which the work appeared carve it out of the wall, reselling it for a record $1.1 million—the profits of which are one-hundred percent their’s. It only takes a UK “lifestyle management firm” five months to sell the removed piece to a private buyer.


TIMELINE OF EVENTS, LONDON:
Banksy (assumed artist). Why?, 2013. London. Courtesy of The Daily Mail.

May 2012 — Work is painted

  • Banksy’s Slave Labour stencil appears on the side of a London retail store, and is quickly protected by plexiglas.

February 2013 — Work is removed

  • The owners of the building on which the work appeared—proprietors of Wood Green Investments, Robert Alan Davis and Leslie Steven Gilbert—legally remove the piece for resale.
  • The sale was large protested by the city of London: “We were really proud to have a Banksy in our neighborhood, so residents were shocked to realize it had been ripped out of the wall,” local government council member Alan Strickland told The Daily Mail in 2013.
  • Banksy is thought to have responded shortly after the removal of the piece by painting a small rat holding a sign that reads “Why?” next to where Slave Labour was removed.

June 2013 — Work is sold

The wall where Slave Labour was installed, shortly after its removal. Courtesy of The Daily Mail.
  • Slave Labour is sold for $1.1 million to a private buyer at an auction held by The Sincura Group, a “lifestyle management firm” in the UK.
  • The Sincura Group has since declared themselves experts in the recovery and restoration of Banksy’s street art: “Since 2010 we have been involved with seventy-percent of all Banksy pieces appearing on the streets,” their website reads.

2014 — Sellers of the work double-down

The collection of artist protests where Slave Labour used to be. Courtesy of The Daily Mail.
  • The company hosts “The Banksy Bugle,” an exhibition staged without Banksy’s involvement or cooperation whatsoever, and it’s accompanied by the following statement: “It should be noted that the Sincura Group do not steal art…Though often controversial, we ensure our work is both ethically and morally sound and our sales of these pieces have both benefited local charities and ensured the longevity of the artwork.”
  • The show is met with vitriol from both the artist and the public. Banksy publishes a message on his website addressing the exhibition that read, “Banksy would like to make it clear—this show has nothing to do with me and I think it’s disgusting people are allowed to go displaying art on walls without getting permission.”

Sources

An advocate for art in the public space, Lindsey is ArtAround's director and the Digital Content Editor for Art21, non-profit producers of films about contemporary art. She holds a BA in journalism and art history from NYU and an MS in the history of art & design from Pratt Institute, where she wrote her master's thesis on street art theory.
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