It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that no one bought the Banksy “Slave Labour” mural that was controversially carved from a wall in London, possibly stolen, and anonymously consigned at today’s contemporary and street art sale at Fine Art Auctions Miami. It was estimated to fetch $500,000-$700,000, but the saga surrounding its removal likely scared off collectors — especially in the wake of yesterday’s news that the FBI had stepped in to ask Scotland Yard to investigate the issue further.
Another Banksy street mural in the auction, “Wet Dog,” was withdrawn from the sale. That work was also the source of outrage after two London and New York dealers transported the wall from Bethlehem and attempted to sell it in the U.S. in 2011. It appeared in the Miami sale despite co-consignor Robin Barton’s claim to ARTINFO in December that he and his partner, Stephen Keszler, had no intention of selling the work, and were in negotiations to place it in a museum.
It’s another win for Banksy and his company, Pest Control, which have a remarkable track record quashing the market for street works, which the artist believes are meant to stay in their original context.
Update, Feb. 24: On its website yesterday, Fine Art Auctions Miami listed a starting bid for “Slave Labour” at $400,000 and then labeled the lot “passed.” But according to today’s International Business Times, the seller actually withdrew the lot after the bidding began. ARTINFO could not reach a representative for comment yesterday, but the house confirmed the move this morning. As of yet, neither the house nor the seller have offered an explanation for the decision.
— Rachel Corbett
— (Photo: “Slave Labour (Bunting Boy),” 2012, attributed to Banksy, photo by Nigel Howard)