The Slave Labour mural as it appeared in May 2012

Slave Labour is a mural that was painted by a British graffiti artist, Banksy, on the side wall of a Poundland store in Wood Green, London in May 2012. The artwork is 48 inches (122 cm) high by 60 inches (152 cm) wide,[1] and depicts an urchin child at a sewing machine assembling a bunting of Union Jack patches. The work was a protest against the use of sweatshops to manufacture Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics memorabilia in 2012.[2]

In February 2013 the mural was removed from its location and put up for sale at Fine art Auctions in Miami, US. After an appeal from the residents of Wood Green the mural was withdrawn from sale in the US and returned to the UK. It was sold at an auction in Covent Garden, London for (USD) $1.2 million.

Removal and sale

There is controversy over the disappearance of the mural, as a portion of the wall was physically removed from the building the artwork was sprayed upon. The owners of the building have not commented on whether it was legally or illegally sold and removed.[3]

When the mural disappeared in February 2013 it was listed for sale on an on-line site and later appeared for sale at the Fine Art Auctions Miami for half a million dollars ($500,000). The auction house insisted the artwork was acquired through a legitimate transaction with a "well known" collector."[4] The listing of the art at auction outraged some Wood Green residents, who believed the work was a gift to them,[5] and that listing the artwork for sale at auction contradicted the wishes of the artist whose message called for an end to exploitation in the name of capitalism.

Despite claims that the acquisition of the artwork was legitimate, the FAAM director Frederic Thut withdrew the artwork, even after three bids had already been placed. Thut was also advised[by whom?] not to discuss the situation.[6]

On 22 February 2013, a stencil of what is believed to be Banksy's signature rat holding a sign saying "Why?" appeared on the right of the area where the "Slave Labour" mural once stood,[7] sparking views that it was a consolation to the community.[8] To the left of that space, appeared the message ‘"Danger Thieves."[9] The rat artwork was covered in plexiglass to protect it but a representative of Banksy claimed that the rat is a fake,[7] and other Banksy enthusiasts agree.[10]

Eventual sale of mural at auction

After protest from the residents of Wood Green the mural was returned to the UK. On 3 June 2013, it was on sold for over £750,000 (US$1.1m) by Bankrobber London at an auction held in the basement of the London Film Museum in Covent Garden by the Sincura Group.[11] It was sold again in 2018 at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles, United States for $730,000 (£561,000) to artist Ron English, who planned to whitewash the work in protest against purchases and sales of street art.[12][13]

Interview with Banksy

When prompted to comment on the sale of his artworks through auction houses, Banksy replied by giving a quote from Henri Matisse: "I was very embarrassed when my canvases began to fetch high prices, I saw myself condemned to a future of painting nothing but masterpieces."[6][14] Furthermore, in previous attempts to sell his artwork, he has stated his position, "For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs I'd encourage people not to buy anything by anybody unless it was created for sale in the first place."[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Banksy Slave Labor (Bunting Boy), London 2012 - Feb 23, 2013 | Fine Art Auctions Miami in FL".
  2. ^ "'Missing' Banksy art Slave Labor (Bunting Boy) on auction in Miami for $500,000". The World from PRX. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  3. ^ Lyall, Sarah (28 February 2013). "Borough Searches for Missing Boy, Last Seen on Wall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  4. ^ "The mysterious case of the missing Banksy". 3 News - Best News. 19 February 2013.
  5. ^ Battersby, Matilda (20 February 2013). "Anger as Banksy's Poundland mural ripped from wall and set for auction in Miami for £450,000". Independent. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Now bring back Banksy boy: Slave Labour mural withdrawn from auction". Evening Standard. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Auctioneer Defiant That Poundland Banksy Will Sell." HuffPost UK. 23 February 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  8. ^ Peralta, Eyder (22 February 2013). "After Uproar Over Removed Mural In London, A New Banksy-Like Work Appears". NPR. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  9. ^ Reyburn, Scott (23 February 2013). "Banksy London mural may fetch $700,000". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  10. ^ "banksy – Page 7 – Vandalog – A Street Art Blog". Retrieved 16 October 2021.
  11. ^ Wilson, Luke (3 June 2013). "Banksy's Slave Labour sells for more than £750,000 at private London auction". Metro. DMG Media. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  12. ^ Neuendorf, Henri (15 November 2018). "Ron English Will Whitewash the $730,000 Banksy Mural He Just Bought to Protest the Removal of Street Art". Artnet News. Artnet. Archived from the original on 8 March 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Banksy's Slave Labour sells for £561,000 - to artist who plans to paint over it". Sky News Online. Sky Group. 15 November 2018. Archived from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Banksy - Questions". Banksy. What do you think about the auction houses selling street art?. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  15. ^ Ryzik, Melena (13 August 2013). "Another Banksy Mural to Go From Wall to Auction". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 October 2021.

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