Haringey blogger: Why missing Banksy piece represents exploitation of the working man
12:05 22 February 2013
Wood Green resident Rachella Sinclair says the street art’s disappearance is so much more than the loss of a tourist attraction
When Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour’ piece, also known as Bunting Boy, popped up in Wood Green last summer, it brought a little spark of light to our somewhat dingy high street.
Painted just before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and located on the side of Poundland, it delivered a slap on the hand of the cheap retailer and a reminder to shoppers who might stop and pause before buying their celebratory decorations.
Banksy fans flocked to see it and I felt a twinge of pride that something other than cheap tat was drawing people to our high road.
It brought much-needed positive attention to Wood Green instead of the usual ugly image often spread in the news and on Twitter.
Street art is often somewhat controversial and Bunting Boy was no different. Haringey Council put a piece of Perspex over the artwork to protect it. This angered a few street art purists - while other members of the community were relieved to see it protected.
Then someone painted the whole wall, including the Perspex. Cynics may believe that this was a ploy to take the piece out of the public eye but perhaps it was simply a genuine mistake made by a painter.
After local websites posted photos of the deed, someone cleaned the paint off the Perspex, revealing the Banksy again and all was well, until this weekend when the whole piece was removed from the wall and put up for auction by a company in Florida, Fine art auctions, Miami, with a guide price of £450,00.
Our little spark of light has now been turned into a commodity for a rich collector. It’s a sad loss. The transitory and underground nature of street art means that something probably would have happened to it eventually, but does that give someone the right to sell the work? Who does street art ultimately belong to? I would argue that it belongs to the public it was created for.
A graffiti artist I know who was prolific in east London before he moved to Berlin seems to back up this belief. He says: “The work I make is for my community and my neighbours. If I can put a smile on one of my neighbour’s faces, or encourage a member of my community to use their brain a little more, then I indirectly reap the reward from this.”
To me the missing Banksy is much more than the loss of a tourist attraction on the high road. To me, it’s an example of how those who have money exploit those who don’t: the artists who created work that others profit from, and the people who live close to high streets where landlords charge rents too high for local businesses, thus creating clusters of betting shops and chain shops selling throwaway merchandise.
When the small joys are taken away from us in the name of profit, what is left? What happens to neighbourhoods where the people are made to feel unimportant and unworthy of anything nice? We only have to look as far as the summer of 2011, when Wood Green High Road was hard hit by the London riots, to see the answer.