Banksy mural pulled from auction; Will town have beloved mural returned?
(CBS News) There's an international mystery in the art world concerning the disappearance -- and re-emergence -- of a mural by the renowned and enigmatic street artist known only as "Banksy." The mural disappeared from a wall in Britain, only to emerge recently at auction in the U.S.
The mural known as "Slave Labour" shows a young boy kneeling in front of an antique sewing machine, making Union Jack bunting for the Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. It appeared last May on a wall of a bargain store in the North London borough of Haringey. Local residents were delighted. One resident there said, "When the Banksy first went up, I was delighted. It puts us on the map."
Banksy is a celebrity mystery man. His identity has never been revealed, but his works are seen as public treasure. So there was local outrage when the "Slave Labour" mural vanished from its London wall and reappeared at a high-end auction house in Miami.
The estimated selling price? Up to $700,000.
When the news reached the people of Haringey, they were moved to protest the mural's removal from a public place to be put up for private sale.
One area resident told a reporter, "This is street art and for us it raises some fundamental points about who is responsible for street art and who morally owns it."
The Haringey Council launched an investigation -- one that reportedly grew to include the Metropolitan Police, the British government, and the FBI -- who still couldn't shed light on the theft.
On Saturday, with three bids for "Slave Labour" already in place -- the now-infamous Banksy piece was suddenly withdrawn from sale. The auction house declined to say why, but did release a statement saying, in part, "there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale."
Banksy is no stranger to controversy. His art has appeared on walls from Europe to Israel, and its social and political commentary is easy to grasp. More difficult, though, is the question of who, if anyone, actually owns it. The people of Haringey believe the Banksy that was on the wall belongs to everyone. A new mural has popped up in the meantime, but the locals hope that their Banksy will be on its way back to Britain from Florida very soon.
Local resident Maria Vaccaro said, "I'd like it to come back, today or tomorrow. It'd be lovely to see our picture back again. It's for us, the whole community."
CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer noted on "CBS This Morning" that if you look at the wall closely, you can see that the Banksy was actually sawed out. Though it's uncertain who did it, the speculation is pointing to someone linked to the firm that owns the building where it appeared.
Watch Palmer's full report above.
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