UK & World News
Banksy Mural Withdrawn From Auction
A Banksy work that was removed from the side of a north London Poundland shop under mysterious circumstances has been withdrawn from sale in the US.
The world's most famous street artist painted the mural on the side of Poundland in Wood Green last May, before the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Called Slave Labour, it showed a boy hunched over a sewing machine making Union Flag bunting.
It was suddenly removed from the wall last weekend, to the anger of local people, and turned up at Fine Art Auctions in Miami where it was expected to fetch up to £460,000 ($700,000).
It looks like a week-long campaign by Haringey Council to stop the sale may have worked as, at the last-minute, the lot was pulled.
A spokesman for the Florida auction house said there were "no legal issues" regarding the sale but that it had decided to withdraw two Banksy lots. No further explanation was given.
Wood Green councillor Alan Strickland said: "To have the mural withdrawn from sale at the 11th hour is a wonderful surprise for the community here in Wood Green.
"It suggests the level of international media attention has had a real impact."
Mr Strickland emailed FAA owner Frederic Thut to ask why the sale had not gone ahead and if there were any plans to auction it in the future.
"Local people have already been in touch about the brilliant news, but we need to know what's going to happen now," he said.
"It seems like we're half-way there. The next step is to get it returned."
It is still unclear who intended to sell the artwork via the auction house, but the Metropolitan Police had said there had not been any reports of theft.
A solicitor for Wood Green Investments, which owns the Poundland site, told Sky News: "My clients do not court publicity, but find themselves in the quite remarkable position that if they deny removing the mural then they will become embroiled in an international criminal investigation that has already involved the FBI.
"But if they admit to consenting to the removal of the mural then they will become the target of abuse."
The episode has started a debate about who, if anyone, owns street art.
Artist "Stik" is clear about who he paints for: "Street artists are putting their work on the street for people. It's for communities, and it's an artistic expression. It's a public gallery. It's open 24 hours a day and it's the biggest gallery in the world, because it is the world."
This isn't this first time murals have been removed to be sold for huge sums. French artist Thierry Noir contributed to the longest concrete painting in the world on the Berlin Wall.
He told Sky News that when the wall came down, his work was stripped by East German soldiers and sold in Monaco for £2m: "It was the soldiers so what can I do against soldiers? Nothing except look at those soldiers.
"It took them one week to take the complete pieces I paint in Berlin, but it was too strong for me so I had to accept it."
A rat holding up a sign saying "Why?" has been stencilled next to the empty space where the Banksy mural stood, with some speculating it could be another work by the elusive artist.
Whether Slave Labour will be returned to the community it was meant for, remains as mysterious as the artist.