Ron English has big plans for the Banksy piece he bought at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on Wednesday, November 14 for $730,000. The piece Slave Labour, which was removed from the side of a London discount store and sold at auction, will be whitewashed by English in protest of the commercialization of Street art.
The work depicts a child on his knees sewing Union Jack flags, referring to the use of sweatshop labor to create memorabilia for the 2012 London Olympics. After it was taken down from a wall months later, the piece resurfaced at the Miami auction. The lot was withdrawn after protests, but it was eventually sold in London in 2013.
The piece was now sold again at Julien's Auctions and English, who bought it, vowed to whitewash it "for my good pal Banksy," adding he wished he could have spent more money for it.
I'm going to paint it white again, I'm done. This is a blow for street art. It shouldn't be bought and sold.
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Ron English explained he plans on buying and whitewashing street works as long as people try to make profits by removing them from the streets and the public.
I’m going to paint over it and just include it in one of the walls in my house. We’re tired of people stealing our stuff off the streets and re-selling it so I’m just going to buy everything I can get my hands on and whitewash it.
The artist explained that he is tired of people stealing artists' work from the street and reselling it. He also said that he plans to sell the whitewashed piece for $1 million, adding "I'm crazy but I'm not stupid."
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Banksy’s pieces had long been known to even double the property value overnight of buildings sporting them. More often, the pieces would be ripped from the streets and sold at auction. Banksy himself has long decried this practice of rampant dislodging and sale of street artworks against the will of artists.
A few years back, his piece High Street Rat was taken from a wall of a Victorian hotel in San Francisco by a street art collector Brian Greif in order to rescue it from being whitewashed by the city government. When Greif offered the work as a gift to SFMOMA, the museum asked for a certificate of authenticity from Banksy himself to ensure that he created the painting. However, Banksy's studio wouldn't provide the document, as this would support the idea that street art removed from the walls, still has value, legitimizing the black market which surrounds the practice.
Simply, artists like Banksy make pieces in their studios that they designate for sale, but the works they are making on the street are not intended to be sold, or even saved.
Featured image: Banksy - Slave Labour, via theverge.com