‘Stolen’ Street Art: International Incident or International Hoax?

A work of ‘stolen’ street art by Banksy resulted in an international outcry this weekend. As I reported earlier, the piece mysteriously disappeared from a wall in London, only to appear in the online catalog of a Miami art auction house. Londoners howled in outrage.

Richard Luscombe, who is following the story for The Guardian, reported that the auction was halted at the last minute Saturday. Frederic Thut, owner of Fine Arts Auction Miami, announced that the piece, along with a second Banksy work, would not be sold after all. He didn’t say why.

Most British sources are calling it a victory for London. The UK Standard said that the gallery was “inundated with angry phone calls” about the sale.

Thut has stubbornly refused to reveal who put the piece on consignment, saying that he protects his client’s confidentiality.

Luscombe quoted a local council member Alan Strickland as saying:

“We are really pleased that because of the pressure and the strong views of the people of Wood Green, a community campaign in London has had an impact in the US. It’s a real victory for the people.”

So where is the piece now, and is it on its way back to London? I can’t be the only skeptic who wonders if it was ever in Miami at all. Banksy is well known for his unconventional techniques to grab publicity for street art — once known as graffiti and sometimes even considered vandalism by doubters.

CBS Miami reported that the public was not allowed to see the piece before the auction. “CBS4’s David Sutta was told the buyer will get to see them up-close before they pay,” they noted, a hint not picked up by the jubilant British media.

No auction, no viewers, no comment about the identity of the owner or the alleged three bidders on the piece. We might have more evidence for the death of El Chapo, who was probably startled to read news reports late last week stating that he’d been killed in a gun battle.

Jessica Elgot for The Huffington Post reported that a new stenciled rat has been placed over the site where the work, “Slave Labour,” was hacked out of the wall.

This reporter smelled a rat on Friday. Do you think the ‘stolen’ street art was ever intended to go on sale, or is it another of Banksy’s attention-getting hoaxes?