Police were called in New Orleans after two men were spotted chipping away at a wall mural created by the elusive British street artist Banksy. The attempted theft was foiled when residents noticed a plywood hoarding had been erected around a wall obscuring the painting and the manager of the building was informed.
Police stated that the manager of the building reported someone trying to steal a section of cinderblock wall, decorated with the painting, ‘Umbrella Girl’, created in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The stencilled image depicts a dejected looking girl holding an umbrella which rains from within, as she reaches for the dry area which surrounds her.
Photographer Cheryl Gerber, a fan of Banksy, asked workmen what they were doing. She was told her that the painting was going to London for a big show. She posted a photo on Facebook with the message: “Bye Bye Banksy! My neighborhood’s most famous little girl is moving to London.” This prompted the investigation. Clay Lapeyrouse, operations manager at Louisiana Fresh Produce, located in the building, saw the post and realised something was wrong and went to the site to take a look for himself. He demanded that the two men show him a work permit, something they were unable to provide. They babbled something about the building’s owners wanting to send the painting to a museum, but gave no further details. He added that the man told him he was a Los Angeles “art handler” working for the building owners, who were sending it to Tate Modern – which holds Britain’s national art collection.
Banksy created over a dozen murals in New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Recently there has been controversy surrounding the removal and sale of several well know site specific works by Banksy. Auction records have shown that there are unscrupulous collectors out there willing to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for these public pieces. Banksy does not receive any money from their sale and Pest Control Banksy’s official authentication board and cataloguer will not certify any of the works removed from their context.