February 24, 2013 8:05 pm

Banksy murals withdrawn from US auction

A Banksy mural that was mysteriously removed from a street in north London has been withdrawn from auction following a campaign for its sale to be halted.

“Slave Labour”, a street artwork showing a boy sewing Union Jack bunting, appeared on the side of a Poundland store in Wood Green last May, ahead of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

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Claire Kober, leader of Haringey council, which called for the work’s return to the UK, said: “It’s a true credit to the community that their campaigning appears to have helped to stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead.”

A week ago the mural was chiselled from the site and was set to be sold by Fine Art Auctions Miami at a US auction on Saturday night, with an estimate of $700,000 (£459,000).

But the auction house said it had withdrawn the mural, along with “Wet Dog”, another painting by the celebrated British street artist that was listed for sale.

An FAAM spokesman said: “Although there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale of lots six and seven by Banksy, FAAM convinced its consignors to withdraw these lots from the auction and take back the power of authority of these works.”

The sale had provoked outrage among artists, local politicians and the public, who demanded the return of “Slave Labour” to its original site near Turnpike Lane station. Frederick Thut, the chief executive of the auction house, said the sale was legal but acknowledged he had been bombarded with angry calls from the UK.

Alan Strickland, a Wood Green councillor, said the decision to withdraw the work from the auction was “a wonderful surprise” for the community. “It suggests the level of international media attention has had a real impact . . . The next step is to get it returned.”

The identity of those who chiselled the mural from its site remains unknown. Wood Green Investments, the property company that owns the Poundland shop unit, has not commented on the planned sale. The Metropolitan Police said there had been no reports of theft.

Ms Kober had contacted Maria Miller, culture secretary, asking for the government to intervene in the dispute. However, the government said it had “no power to intervene” since the sale appeared “lawful and legitimate”.

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