Slave Labour (mural)

Slave Labour is a mural that was painted by a British graffiti artist, Banksy, on the side wall of a Poundland store in Wood Green, London in May 2012. The artwork is 48.03 inches (122 cm) high by 59.84 inches (152 cm) wide,[1] and depicts an urchin child at a sewing machine assembling a bunting of Union Jack patches. The work was a protest against the use of sweatshops to manufacture Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics memorabilia in 2012.[2]

In February 2013 the mural was removed from its location and put up for sale at Fine art Auctions in Miami, US. After an appeal from the residents of Wood Green the mural was withdrawn from sale in the US and returned to the UK. It was sold at an auction in Covent Garden, London for (USD) $1.2 million.

Removal and sale

There is controversy over the disappearance of the mural, as a portion of the wall was physically removed from the building the artwork was sprayed upon. The owners of the building have not commented on whether it was legally or illegally sold and removed.[3]

When the mural disappeared in February 2013 it was listed for sale on an on-line site and later appeared for sale at the Fine Art Auctions Miami for half a million dollars ($500,000). The auction house insisted the artwork was acquired through a legitimate transaction with a "well known" collector."[4] The listing of the art at auction outraged some Wood Green residents, who believed the work was a gift to them,[5] and that listing the artwork for sale at auction contradicted the wishes of the artist whose message called for an end to exploitation in the name of capitalism.

Despite claims that the acquisition of the artwork was legitimate, the FAAM director Frederic Thut withdrew the artwork, even after three bids had already been placed. Thut was also advised not to discuss the situation.[6]

A stencil of what is believed to be Banksy's signature rat holding a sign saying "Why?" appeared next to the area, supposedly a retaliation by Banksy to the removal of his artwork. The rat artwork has since been removed.[7] A representative of Banksy claimed that the rat is a fake.[8]

Eventual sale of mural at auction

After protest from the residents of Wood Green the mural was returned to the UK. It was sold for (USD) $1.1 million by Bankrobber London at an auction held in the basement of the London Film Museum in Covent Garden by the Sincura Group.

Interview with Banksy

When prompted to comment on the sale of his artworks through auction houses, Banksy replied by giving a quote from Henri Matisse: "I was very embarrassed when my canvases began to fetch high prices, I saw myself condemned to a future of painting nothing but masterpieces."[6][9] Furthermore, in previous attempts to sell his artwork, he has stated his position, "For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs I'd encourage people not to buy anything by anybody unless it was created for sale in the first place."[10]


  1. Blouin Art Sales Index, Slave Labor (Bunting Boy) 2012: Lot 6 - Fine Art Auctions Miami, Miami (February 23, 2013),
  2. "'Missing' Banksy art Slave Labor (Bunting Boy) on auction in Miami for $500,000", Global Post, (February 20, 2013),
  3. "Borough Searches for Missing Boy, Last Seen on Wall", New York Times, (February 28, 2013),
  4. "The mysterious case of the missing Banksy", 3 News - Best News, (February 19, 2013),
  5. Battersby, Matilda. "Anger as Banksy's Poundland mural ripped from wall and set for auction in Miami for £450,000". Independent. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  6. "Now bring back Banksy boy: Slave Labour mural withdrawn from auction at last minute", London Evening Standard, (February 24, 2013),
  7. "Give us back our Banksy! Auction house selling 'stolen' art is bombarded with calls... as rat shows up next to missing graffiti", Mail Online, (February 22, 2013),
  8. "Banksy Graffiti On Poundland Auction Due To Take Place As Owner Wood Green Investments Maintains Silence", The Huffington Post, (February 23, 2013),
  9. "Frequently Asked Questions: What do you think about the auction houses selling street art?", Banksy, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 January 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "'Stolen' Banksy mural withdrawn from sale at U.S. auction house following storm of protest as mysterious new graffiti appears in its place", Mail Online, (23 February 2013),

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