A Banksy mural, known as Art Buff, must be returned to the United Kingdom, after it failed to sell in the United States, a London judge ruled. This beautiful piece, valued at about $720,000 was ripped from a wall of a Folkestone amusement arcade called Dreamland, and shipped to the United States, and sent to the Keszler Gallery from New York City. The gallery brought the piece to the Art Miami, where it was exhibited with a price of about $720,000. However, the representatives of the Folkestone-based arts charity the Creative Foundation launched a legal challenge to return the artwork to Kent. Finally, London judge Richard Arnold ruled that a Banksy mural must be returned to Folkestone (a port town on the English Channel); a judgment, that will, according to the legal representatives of the Creative Foundation will impact art law and future cases involving Banksy’s and other street art.
Legal Battle for Banksy’s Piece
The whole story of this legal battle began when the artwork itself was created. It was in 2014, during the Folkestone Triennial (it suddenly and unexpectedly appeared on the wall of the Dreamland). The piece attracted hundreds and hundreds of visitors. However, soon after, the section of the wall (with the mural) was moved from the arcade, and sent to the US. The piece had been cut out under the supervision of art dealer Robin Barton who trades under the name of Bankrobber and specializes in Banksy pieces. As we mentioned, it appeared in the Art Miami fair, but was not sold. In order to return the piece back to England, the Creative Foundation (a charity organization) launched a legal challenge (financially supported by a benefactor, who believed that Art Buff belonged to the people of Folkestone, and not to some wealthy collector). During the investigation, it was revealed that he Godden family, who had ordered the removal and sale of the Banksy, only owned the leasehold – not the freehold – of the arcade where Art Buff had been drawn. According to the judgement: The tenant had no reasonable prospect of establishing that it was entitled, let alone obliged, to remove the mural. The charity organization won the case. In addition, the court said that the work is currently being held in an independent storage unit in New York.
Art Buff and Possible Consequences of the Legal Battle
Art Buff was done during the night and it features an elderly lady, listening to audio museum guide, looking at an empty plinth, over a buffed area. As it is widely known (and The Guardian reminds us), Banksy had condemned the removal and private sale of his artworks as disgusting (read more about Banksy in our recent artist of the week article). On the other hand, Stephan Keszler (from the Keszler Gallery) told the Miami Herald in a 2012 interview that he sees nothing wrong in promoting Banksy’s art worldwide. The Creative Foundation issued a statement saying that they feel a real sense of triumph. The piece will be back to the place where it belongs – and it will be public. Finally, this judgment poses a serious question: Will this ruling affect art laws dealing with the sale and ownership of street art works?
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Featured Image: Banksy – Art Buff
All Images used for illustrative purposes only.