The US Street Artist Ron English has purchased Banksy’s Poundland wall mural ‘Slave Labour’ for £561,000, with the plan to whitewash over the artwork. The mural first appeared during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2012 and depicts a young kneeling child working on a sewing machine, producing a string of Union Jack bunting which was popular during the celebration.
‘Of course I’ll sell the whitewash painting for a million dollars. I’m crazy but I’m not stupid.’- Ron English
The mural was painted on the side of a pound shop in Wood Green in 2012 and highlighted child labour and sweatshops used to manufacture souvenirs for the London Olympics and Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
Slave Labour was offered for sale at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on Wednesday and was purchased by English who is protesting against the commodification of street art, that is art being bought and sold after it has been legally removed by the site owners and then put up for auction. English told the Press Association: ‘My idea for this painting is to whitewash it for my good pal Banksy, I only wish I could’ve spent more money on it. I’m done. This is a blow to street art. It shouldn’t be bought and sold. ‘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 painting sold for 600,000 US dollars plus the buyers premium, bringing the total to 730,000 US dollars, Darren Julien, of Julien’s Auctions said.
The mural, whose ownership has remained anonymous originally went under the hammer organised by the Sincura Group, prompting condemnation from north London campaigners and officials from Haringey council. The Sincura group said the mural had been “sensitively restored” and if the piece did not reach the reserve price it would then be sold to a collector in the US.
One MP asked for the owners to return the mural to Wood Green. MP Lynne Featherstone urged the owners of the mural to give it back to the residents of north London.
Slave Labour (Bunting Boy) a black and white aerosol mural on concrete was estimated at $600,000-$800,000. The mural is mounted on a custom platform and is accompanied by a clear protective case.
One of the most publicised and poignant examples of Banksy’s social commentary, Slave Labour helped bring international attention to the exploitation of young people. “We can’t guarantee that our four Banksy’s will automatically shred or explode but they will sell to the highest bidder!” said Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of Julien’s Auctions.
Ron English, who worked with Banksy in the past and considers himself to be a friend of the artist said, ‘Of course I’ll sell the whitewash painting for a million dollars. I’m crazy but I’m not stupid.’