‘Stolen’ Street Art’s Opening Bid $400,000?

$500,000 for graffiti? Street art removed from the side of a London building will be sold at auction Saturday in Miami, and the opening bid will be $400,000, with an estimated final selling price of over half a million dollars. Brad Lendon for CNN reports that many Londoners consider the sale a bold theft — and not just because of the high price for a stencil chipped off a wall.

The piece, called “Slave Labour,” was painted on an exterior wall iin North London by beloved street artist Banksy, who has gained international acclaim for his work both in London and around the world. Locals, including local council members, were shocked to discover that the slab containing the work had been cut right out of the wall. The particular graffiti was especially emotional because of its theme, a young boy sewing a British flag on an old-fashioned sewing machine.

Adding insult to injury, no one seems to know who took the valuable piece of street art, according to The Guardian’s Richard Luscombe. The seller has remained anonymous, and Frederic Thut of Fine Art Auctions refuses to identify the owner.

CBS Miami has asked if the whole thing might be a publicity stunt. It wouldn’t be the first.

In fact, as Julie Zeveloff reported for Business Insider, there was a fabricated press release on Friday, claiming that Banksy had been arrested for vandalism and his real name revealed as a result of a round-the-clock anti-graffiti task force. It was a hoax.

“We just placed a call to London’s Metropolitan Police, who confirmed that the Banksy is still safely under cover,” she wrote.

CBS Miami may harbor some suspicions about the auction because no one has been allowed to see the piece. A CBS reporter was told that the winning bidder will get to see it before they pay.

However, while the price of “Slave Labour” sounds high, there is some precedent for the valuation of Banksy’s work. A 2010 report in The Web Urbanist noted that every Banksy painted on a wall in New Orleans increased the value of a building by $75,000 to $200,000. Banksy had visited the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Despite their value, virtually all of the New Orleans pieces were secretly destroyed by an anti-graffiti artist called “The Gray Ghost,” who painted over street art with his signature shade of gray.

Do you think the street art will sell for $400,000 or even more? Or do you smell a rat?