A previously convicted art thief who attempted to sell a stolen work by the internationally known graffiti artist Banksy on eBay for £17,000 walked free from court today. Leon Lawrence, 32, hacked the artwork off of a hotel in West London and put the mural, titled Sperm Alarm sale.
Mr Lawrence apparently framed the piece, which depicts 15 sperm swarming around a red sprinkler alarm preparing to impregnate it. He put it on sale on eBay last winter using his eBay account in an attempt to sell the item under his user name LeonLeon, between February 9 and April 4 2011, Southwark Crown Court was told on Monday.
Staff from the hotel in Victoria alerted the police when they saw the artwork listed for sale online. Edward Franklin the prosecutor, explained to the court that staff had noticed the artwork, as soon as it appeared on a wall outside the Hesperia. ‘You may have heard of the artist Banksy. He is a graffiti artist and he appears to have graffitied a panel of wall belonging to the Hesperia Hotel, by Victoria station,’ he said. ‘He did not manage to sell the item,’ he added.
The Legendary UK graffiti artist Banksy’s work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road.
Most recently the artist has experimented with film, achieving an Oscar nomination for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. Consistently controversial, Banksy is described by some as genius and others as a vandal. Regardless of whether he is inspiring admiration or provoking outrage, his name is one that is well-known around the world. His early career, between 1990 and 1994, was that of a traditional freehand graffiti artist in the Bristol underground scene. The stenciling technique for the ‘guerrilla art’ for which he is now better known was first seen around 2000 and is widely thought to have been inspired by Blek le Rat (Xavier Prou), one of the first Parisian graffiti artists who is also known as the ‘Father of Stencil Graffiti.’